Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peter Thiel's Very Hot Topic!

I have recently read a very charged article concenring the nature of a $100,000 grant to drop out of school. But more details, of course.

The grant comes from the mind of a young philanthropist, the creater of pay pal, and we can consider his "grant" as an attempt to stimulate the economy and change society. The mans name of course is Peter Thiel.

The article which i have come across is essentially a critique of the entire plan. The author Jacob Weisberg argues that what we are seeing in this "Thiel grant" is the attempt of a narcissistic young billionaire to "clone him self", or perhaps justify his life style, by empowering young students to drop out of school and try to start a tech business of some type. That of course is the requirement of the grants, that you be young, in school, drop out and start a tech business. As applicants submit (this October applications start) to the fund, a selection of 20 people under 20 years old old will be selected next year and given money to drop out of school and start their ventures.

My intention in writing this post is to explore a bit more the arguments presented by Jacob and express my opinion that his perception of this instance might be skewed unnecessarily. In the article Jacob rails against Thiels character and brings up many points which would reflect a greedy and selfish libertarian perspective where women and welfare and democracy inhibit freedom. Indeed it is familiar to the event which is written of Jacob on wikipedia where he refused an offer to join the skull & bones fraternity and stated their exclusion of women as his reason. Much Weisberg's comment come off sounding like a form of political character assassinations rather then a thought provoking dialog. Perhaps he seeks to advertise the topic. I do not argue directly for Thiel's character as a general thing, nor his philosophies, rather i wish to address more underlying aspects of the whole scenario, things outside the limited perspective of a system frozen in time to be interpreted. By the way, i highly suggest that you read the article (posted above) before continuing.

From my perspective there is much more to be gathered and seen from the behavior of this particular liberal philanthropist then the elements of a great opinion rant on the behavioral qualities of dysfunctional libertarians. The reason that there is much more to gather is because outside of his character and his form of approach his affect will be felt in ways which we cannot translate directly form an analysis of his character, especially one which is bias. Indeed, we cannot even be certain that the literal presentations of what Peter intends accurately match up to what he intends, and thus to focus on the analysis of his character may be temporarily necessiary to satisfy the needs of some but in the end it is a distracting succession of notions. By this i mean that what he intends to do via his actions and actually what happens are not directly equivalent, and further what comes of his intention is not necessarily what he intends. What comes will of course be those endeavors which are granted monetary assistance by the Thiel Foundation. The story to come of those endeavors will shape how it is that the character of Peter is interpreted, and whats relevant to Jacob in this is that it will inform a piece of public perception of the liberal human. God forbid if more liberals get support.

But we must remember...the world at large is not so weak as to move in great measure on the dream of only one and stay fixed in that way. His personality and philosphy are generally flawed in some ways, as Jacob does point out, yet we should not underestimate the force of Thiels will and the commitment of his assets. What the man has is a dream, a dream which is shared among many people which does indeed contain aspects of good and focuses on addressing potentially emotional issues and challenges. Change, especially in relation to industry, technology and the lives of people, is inevitable and required for our sustained existence. To advocate from any point for an engagement with these issues is always beneficial and should be encouraged on the grounds of a mutual agreement of the opportunity and challenges that need to be faced outside of the "business as usual" mindset. However this dream is but a single element in our collective dreaming on this planet, and as that element it will be a catalyst for unpredictable results as the "sub group" of the planet's dream spreads and mingles with those previously unconcerned... Which is the affect of investment.

There are a few points of Jacobs point that need to be discussed in further depth from all sides... The first of which is the notion of the stifling of intellectual development. Our education system is flawed and the networking and learning opportunity which take place at "universities" are not the only ways to drive society. Perhaps one's career influences their perception of access and freedom, one's perception of how it is that can be done. Indeed i believe that it is relevant to mention that Jacob him self attended Yale university and we must remember that his undergraduate experience at that institution was remarkably different then the general university student... and like i was saying, the opportunities to collaborate and learn / network do not need to take place within universities only. All around the country, the world even, open access to technology is empowering the beginnings of the maker movement, and i have much faith that such a movement can produce a radically new interpretation of education and industry (see This does not mean that the institutions within the education system at large are all faulty systems, for much of research and development, much of basic engineering and political knowledge comes from the pursuit in academics. Universities are still hot beds for innovation, and it is wise for one such as Peter to attempt to capitalize on that hot bed. Yet this wisdom is not merely in terms of Peter's self interest, but of the interest of all of those which the investment shall impact. Don't forget that.
However, for anyone that has a mind of knowing when something "okay" (our education system) can become something much better it is easy to see ways in which our system flawed. Perhaps it is not merely the education systems but more so the culture in general, for the lack of motivation and confusion about ones purpose in the world seem to be the main drawbacks of the current system.

Also, there is the notion of Jacob's hostile perception of tech start ups. I am tempted to find if he has any suggestions as to how it is that investments should be made because it is dangerous to argue against investing in technology given the foreboding economic battles that are to be fought for 21st century technology industry leadership. Perhaps he feels that the physical economy of the US and our "services" will suffice to provide the foundations for a thriving economy without radical or questionable private investment outside of the status quo, perhaps he sees that there is already a solution in place to develop a growing sense of welfare. Perhaps he does not truly believe that young individuals have the flexibility to find new systems and produce useful results without years of schooling and academic regulation. A mature individual then is one which is indoctrinated with the culture of the university. I disagree with most notions about our current economy and sense of wealth, and feel that it is necessary for open access to technology and massive individual research and manufacturing potential to re-define the global politic and economy, as well as re define education. Pay-pal it self is a wonderful tool that acts as a model and exemplifed "proof of concept" method of direct monitary transfer between individuals... although there is the middle man of pay-pal it self. This model essentially allows monetary transfer to not require physical presence, and thus gives increased access for many to the global market exchange. Naturally we can see that this technology enables entities of all types to have an advantage. Regardless of what any one says there is issues with our economy that need to be address, issues which have to to with our understanding of value, investments, returns and exchange. For anyone who has studied chinas economic plans for the next few decades we will know that there is a strong emphasis in using excessive savings to invest in high-tech endeavors and infrastructure to continue increasing Chinese global recognition as both a manufacturer and also a product developer.

The third and last thing is the bais of Jacob that seems to indicate he thinks it's unhealthy to want to make a useful novel product (system) and for it to generate great returns. I think this type of attitude fosters a type of "us and them" that forges the opportunity for sharing our understanding of global events, or in other words creating a culture which empowers people with lots of wealth to invest in human creativity, welfare and achievement. Perhaps there are many that would obtain the grant who do not wish to make money purely for greed but rather seek to re-define our culture through technology. Maybe thats what Jacob is afraid of, i know a lot of people are afraid of this and claim that our current standard of welfare is in danger of collapsing... but we cannot maintain it if our economy falls apart. I do not know the man but in reading his article i found it quite sad that he seemed to rail so hard against Peter's character, using Peter's foundation as an almost arbitrary entrance into a complaining rant, when there is so much opportunity for a more important discussion that has to do with creativity, access and empowerment of individuals. But perhaps it is more necessary to continue to maintain the "values of the middle-class"... Whatever that means.

I do not think that some liberal infection will afflict all those who receive a grant. What we are seeing because of this movement of Peter is the act of him growing up, naturally he will go through various stages in his life where what he perceives as relevant will shift. You can be certain that it is better to have him investing in people then not though, wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bill Foster


So last week (or was it the week before that?) i heard rumor of a bill, H.R. 6003, which has been submitted and scheduled for committee. This bill, ahh yes this bill represents a first glimmer at what will be the USA economy of the 21st century. Indeed i must say that within the very framework hidden within the bill is the global economy of the new world.

Let us start by saying that what this bill represents is nothing which citizens cannot do them selves. I would advise you to read over the bill before continuing. They seek to establish a non profit, and thus, as a non-profit they will assign their employees and attempt to secure their mission. Ten years is what we find stated in the proposition. However, we should take note that a federal endeavor is granted with a type of "freedom" in that the funds are given not in accordance with a profit to be made directly but for a type of "goodness" that might come, so failure is more of an option then if it were a private endeavor.

What the bill calls for is the creation of several hundred "Fab Labs" over the next ten years, let us look at what they are defining:

"(c) Definitions- In this section, the term ‘Fabrication Laboratory’ also referred to as a ‘Fab Lab’ means a facility containing a variety of manufacturing and other fabrication tools operable by means of digital input as well as the software and computers required to design for and operate those tools. These labs serve a broad range of purposes, but each allow for clear guidelines for how members of the local community, local businesses, and academic or educational purposes can be pursued with the labs’ resources consistent with a charter to be established by the NFLN."

Obviously almost any industrial process can fall under this definition. And of particular interest to us is the notion that these labs may be biased in terms of which members of the community can access them. For example, what if the limited resources of the labs are contracted to some business in particular, whereby that business gains some type of competitive advantage on another member in the community. Soon, if that other member is driven to loose profits they will, in some sense, see this as them being attacked by the federal government. They will see that they do not have access to a fab-lab like the other company, and they might not have the financial resources necessary to invest in personnel and technology to compete. These types of considerations always arise when there are limited resources to go around, be they raw or technological.

We might look more deeply at the meaning behind this bill. Maybe there will be restrictions in that any community entity is limited in terms of total time they can use the equipment at the fab lab. My only concern here is that these labs will be too popular, too powerful and in demand. I mean they are mixing technology, learning, creation and welfare together... obviously they are going to need to offer access to the community at some type of cost that is lower then say, Intel's "fab labs", otherwise the endeavor would be kind of meaningless.

The charter they mention is the vague point, it is the point that has yet to come for us to see, the part whos form we can only intuit at this point. I have requested from Bill Foster, the bill's author, to speak with him for more information about the bill. Hopefully i can learn more about whats driving him and what larger plans he has behind this.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Late Winter Nanotube Dreams

I had a discussion with Larry James, proprietor of wulfdesign, concerning a simple experiment to integrate nanotechnology into user products. Larry owns a 3-d printer, a maker bot, and if you are not familiar with the culture and movement surrounding this then i suggest you look into it.

Basically, we talked about getting his 3-d printer to print nano-enabled products, particularly single walled CNT embedded in ABS polymer. After some processing considerations I realized that the best way to get the SWNT homogeneously mixed was to put nanotubes in solution into an ABS powder, or even have a solution of SWNT from which ABS polymerization reaction takes place. I also had ideas of nanotubes with organic complexes (polymers) at the ends that would help align SWNT while in solution with electric current... but thats a different story..

But like i was saying, processing considerations. It turns out that the 3-d printer only takes 3mm round rod feed, and we don't have the means to produce the 3mm rounds.
Larry came up with the idea of using acetone to dissolve the outer layer of finished produced and then brush on nanotube. This is an interesting idea, but the fact that we could not get at the total volume of the wire was getting to me. I'm sure there is something interesting to test with the painted tubes, but i believe that an investment this time in the ability to make 3mm round rod ABS plastic would be more beneficial for everyone at large. DIY polymer wire fabricator.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lewigie Galaxy training for the micro domain perception

The title is aptly named.

On watching a video here of a new game for the Nintendo wii is was struck by the nature of space and material patterns. it was vary similar, and expendable, to many nano and micro scale features of the world around us.

we are getting people's mind exercised in these domains:


I need someone with experience articulating economic systems in fine detail.

Of course, i could do it my self but sometimes there must be a balance of interests.

Revolution or Evolution?

I have encountered a few reoccurring perceptions of nanotechnology.

The first, which is waning fast (or at least changing forms), is the "revolution" perception. In this perception research and development of nanotechnology is assumed to reach revolutionary industry changing status quickly and forcefully. Beyond the descriptions of how this will occur (molecular manufacturing...e.c.t) there is consensus from those who follow this view that nanotechnology is both highly useful and provides superior functionality that will be quickly integrated into industry.

The second group are the nay-sayers. They claim that "nanotech" is a buzz word, a manufactured term used by savvy money hungry researchers attempting to entice policymakers into giving them money for their projects. Obviously, they tout, material scientists and engineers, molecular chemist and engineers, pharmaceutical companies and pretty much anyone looking to continue research has already been doing "nanotechnology" for quite a few decades. They attribute the "growth" of nanotechnology and nanoscice as merely the growth of the label, failing to see it as something novel. Advances in instrumentation and reduction in the cost caused an increase in the number of researchers with access to the nanorealm, and hence the growth of a label. To them it is simple, nano-claiming folk are charlatans wich may or may not harm the development of advanced technologies by over-selling to the public.

Also, in quick mention, there are hard researchers them selves. Generally they are so bogged in managing their projects they have hardly any time to form any perception outside of the scientific and pragmatic... Until it comes time for them to feel entitled to be given their dues. Think shortly of failed pharmaceutical companies and you will know what i mean.

I personally believe both of these groups approach the idea from the wrong direction. They each of course have their uses, the revolutionaries enticing larger audiences and spurring their imaginations, and the nay-sayers keeping anything from going too far into unfamiliar territory, managing risk. And there is always risk, be it for industry or academic research groups, but they fundamentally miss the whole point.

We need to take inventory of the reality of the situation, a reality where the world is not spurred into joy and unity from the out-puts of the lab, nor does the I-phone and it's cleverly constructed and competitive smart phone industry bring about the enlightenment, rather what we have seen is the development of tools to engage with and increase our understanding of natural phenomena. Indeed, "nanoscience" is merely the natural progression of "science" into domains further and further to the point of finest measure, whereby the recursive nature of the search increases the resolution of that metric as we progress. But the landscape of that metric is vast indeed... Although much of the world is addicted to technology, that does not mean that much of the world is necessarily technologically progressive. Rather, much of the technologically consuming world is still best understood in terms of individuals working towards local goals (i.e house payments, bank account).Undoubtedly our increasingly technological cultures give us access to information and increases our connectivity, yet one must not be hasty as to claiming that a culture which consumes technology is capable of realizing the full potential of technology as an abstract essence.

And much is the same for nanotechnology, nanoscience.
For anyone that has watched the progress of the last ten years it is obvious that within the nano realm there is so much variance as to how matter can arrange and the properties that this entails that to make any type of functional sense of this will take more then fabricating in mass quantity carbon nanotubes. The sheer size of the domain and it's sensitive nature will cause stark division among developers of nano-systems as to what is appropriate or possible. There will be those who increase the performance of familiar structures, and there will be those who seek to create novel and powerful systems that appear at times foreign. And of course, between these two extremes will be the majority.

So it is inline with these thoughts that i believe that nanotechnology will not be a revolutionary disruptive movement. It will an evolutionary movement, and it's products will not be brought to the betterment of all but to the betterment of the few (and i don't mean people specifically, also industry). And this may still promote benefit, for consumers themselves do not consume in all forms but only those which they are most interested in, or most familiar with. Thus, smart phones and other devices akin to mobile computing and sensing will definitely increase in sophistication because of nanotechnology. Industrial coatings and functionzation of surfaces will also come to pass and become mainstream. Development of composite materials with nanoengineered component is another sector that finds ground even now. But the most significant technologies, those outside of the interests of most folk, those which have the opportunity to re-define what it means to be creative creatures, those will not come to pass so quickly and without problems.

Yet it is in those foreign and extreme technologies where there is much mystery, and perhaps one day we will have people living 300 years.... yet not without their never ending nano-therapy sessions.