Trump’s Trade War Has Probably Permanently Damaged America’s Tech Leadership Position

On May 15, US president Donald Trump issued an “Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain.”

Pursuant to that order, a number of firms in the US (including Google, Qualcomm, and Intel) and abroad (including Panasonic and Arm) have reduced or even entirely cut their ties with Chinese firm Huawei.

Beneath the risible national security claims used to justify it, Trump’s order is just another exercise in economic protectionism. He thinks he’s securing America’s position as the world’s leader in the tech sector. In reality, he’s demolishing that position.

Huawei is just one company, but it’s a big one. It sells its products and services in more than 170 countries and to 45 of the world’s 50 largest telecom operators. One third of the world’s population uses its networks.

Trump isn’t just cutting Huawei out of the US. He’s also cutting American companies out of lucrative relationships with Huawei.

Huawei will soon lose access to Google’s Android operating system. It’s already been working on its own in-house replacement for some time. It probably also has contingency plans for replacing the Intel, Qualcomm, and Arm chips in its phones with chips produced in China — perhaps by Huawei itself.

Nothing Trump does can likely put Huawei out of business. He can temporarily hurt it, but he can’t permanently kill it. The most momentous effect of his order is to put Huawei  on notice that it must not, under any circumstances, ever again find itself at the mercy of US suppliers and of the US government’s good will.

If Trump “wins” his trade wars, will Huawei go back to using the US suppliers it was just cut off from? That’s very unlikely.  Once bitten, twice shy.

Other global tech companies and other governments are watching, and unless they’re stupid they’re drawing the same conclusions.  If it can happen to Huawei, it can happen to them. No matter the immediate outcome, Trump’s stunt has done irreparable long-term damage to global trust in America’s tech giants.

As for those American companies, if they’re smart they’re already looking into what it will take to move their executive functions, and as much of their operations as possible, offshore, for the same reasons. They’re in business to make money, not to serve the whims of economically illiterates like Donald Trump.

The Trump trade bubble is bursting. The fallout isn’t pretty. And it’s going to get worse.

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Big Government and Big Tech versus the Internet and Everyone

Governments around the world began trying to bring the Internet under control as soon as they realized the danger to their power represented by unfettered public access to, and exchange of, information. From attempts to suppress strong encryption technology to the Communications Decency Act in the US and China’s “Great Firewall,” such efforts have generally proven ineffectual. But things are changing, and not for the better.

The European Parliament recently passed a “Copyright Directive” which, if implemented, will force Internet platforms to actively monitor user content instead of putting the burden of proving copyright infringement on those claiming such infringement. The Directive also includes  a “link tax” under which publishers will charge aggregation platforms for traditionally “fair use” excerpts.

The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment is attempting to force the sale of Grindr, a gay dating app, over “national security” concerns. Grindr is owned by a Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun. CFIUS’s supposed fear is that the Chinese government will use information the app gathers to surveil or even blackmail users in sensitive political and military jobs.

Those are just two current examples of many.

Big Governments and Big Tech are engaged in a long-term mating dance.

Big Governments want to regulate Big Tech because that’s what governments do, and because, as with Willie Sutton and banks, Big Tech is where the Big Tax Money is.

Big Tech wants to be regulated by Big Governments because regulation makes it more difficult and expensive for new competitors to enter the market. Facebook doesn’t want someone else to make it the next MySpace. Google doesn’t want a fresh new face to send it the way of Yahoo.

It’s a mating dance with multiple suitors on all sides.

The US doesn’t like Grindr or Huawei, because FREEDUMB.

The Chinese don’t want uncensored Google or Twitter, because ORDER.

The EU is at least honest about being sexually indiscriminate: It freely admits that it just wants to rigorously screw everyone, everything, everywhere.

Big Tech wants to operate in all of these markets and it’s willing to buy every potential Big Government as many drinks as it takes to them all into the sack.

Everybody wins, I guess. Except the public.

Governments and would-be monopolists are fragmenting what once advertised itself as a Global Information Superhighway into hundreds of gated streets.

Those streets are lined by neatly manicured lawns per the homeowners’ association’s rigorously enforced rules, and herbicide is sprayed on those lawns to kill off the values that made the Internet the social successor to the printing press and the economic successor to the Industrial Revolution.

As Stewart Brand wrote, “Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. … That tension will not go away.”

Big Tech and Big Government are both coming down, increasingly  effectively,  on the side of “expensive” and on the side of Ford’s  Model T philosophy (“you can have any color you want as long as it’s black”).

They’re killing the Internet. They’re killing the future. They’re killing us.

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What Parents Can Really Do to Help Prepare Their Teens for Success

While reading about the student-led climate protests last week, a statement jumped out at me from the 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who is credited with launching the walkouts that occurred in over 100 countries. In an interview with The New York Times, Thunberg, who says she was a shy but good student who was overcome for years with adolescent depression, claims that her climate work has added fulfillment to her life. She says: “I’m happier now…I have meaning. I have something I have to do.”

Teenagers Crave Purpose

Regardless of how you may feel about climate activism, the key message to parents is that school can be stifling and anxiety-inducing for many teenagers who crave and need meaningful work. Adolescents are meant to come of age within the adult world, surrounded by a diverse group of mentors and engaged in authentic, real-life pursuits. This gives them both experience and personal reward.

Instead, teenagers today are spending more of their time confined in school and school-like settings than ever before. Teenage employment has plummeted, with part-time jobs abandoned in the all-out quest for academics and college admissions. Summer jobs, once a signature activity for teens, are no longer valued. Schooling has become the priority—even in summer. In July 1985, only ten percent of US teens were enrolled in school; in July 2016, over 42 percent were.

Thunberg also isn’t alone in her teen depression. Mounting data show skyrocketing rates of adolescent anxiety, depression, and suicide over the last decade. Some researchers point to technology and social media as the culprit, but they ignore other, recent cultural trends—like more time in forced schooling and less time engaged in jobs and meaningful work—that could be contributing to adolescent strife.

Job Experience Could Be A Solution

In a recent Harvard EdCast podcast interview, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University and author of the book, How to Raise an Adult, said that she has heard from several admissions officers that they, regrettably, rarely see work experience described in student essays or otherwise touted on college applications. Young people and their parents now believe that academics and extracurriculars are more important than good, old-fashioned teenage jobs.

Not only is this increased emphasis on school over work likely contributing to teenage angst and disenfranchisement, but it is also not serving them well for the adult world they will ultimately enter. A report by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation revealed that employers are disappointed that today’s highly-schooled graduates lack basic proficiency in simple tasks like drafting a quality email, prioritizing work, and collaborating with others. Other studies have found similar results, with employers frustrated by their new hires’ lack of communication skills, poor problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities, and low attention to detail.

While parents and teachers may think that piling on academics is the key to adult success, the lack of genuine work experience can be more hindrance than help for today’s young people. If parents really want their children to have a meaningful and successful adolescence and adulthood, they should consider trading a well-schooled life for a well-lived one. They can encourage their teens to get jobs and gain beneficial work experience—and make sure that their kids handle it all independently, learning through trial and error. As Lythcott-Haims warns in her book:

Helping by providing suggestions, advice, and feedback is useful, but we can only go so far. When parents do what a young employee must do for themselves, it can backfire.

In addition to encouraging part-time work, parents can also help their teenagers to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that focuses on customer satisfaction and value creation. By looking at her job (even if it’s in retail or food service) from an entrepreneurial perspective, a teen can learn a lot about business and value-creation and may be inspired to become an entrepreneur in adulthood. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is woefully neglected in schools and standard extracurriculars.

As parents look ahead to summer vacation, they may want to pause and take a closer peek at their teenager’s plans. Will she spend those warm months getting ahead on her AP classes? Will he do a foreign language immersion program that will look good on the college transcripts? Maybe getting a job or learning how to think like an entrepreneur would be a more beneficial and rewarding way to enjoy a summer—and a life.

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Try Before You Know

Conducting an experiment to explore what works > Making a religion out of every newly discovered self-improvement technique.

In design thinking, there’s a process known as “Proof of Concept.”

This is when you create a pilot version of a project in order gauge your idea against the feedback of some real world experience.

This works not only for developing products, but also for developing your self.

If there’s new book you’re on the fence about buying, find a podcast interview or YouTube video of the author talking about the ideas. If that experience makes you want more, then you have your proof of concept. You now have a better indication that you’ll enjoy the book. If the experience makes you bored or irritated by the author’s communication style, that might be a good indicator that your time is better spent elsewhere.

If you’re considering a new approach to exercising, commit to trying it out for one week. That might be too soon to notice visible results, but it’s not too soon to notice how it makes you feel. Does it make you want more? If so, try two weeks. Does it make you feel less inclined to work out? If so, maybe it’s time to put something new to the test.

Marriage is a wonderful practice, but not everything in life needs to be approached as if it’s a marriage.

Instead of making a lifetime vow to eat a certain way, to get up a certain amount of time, to read a certain number of books, to work a specific set of hours, and so on, try the art of trying things out.

There’s no need to declare a dogmatic opinion about all your strategies and techniques. Being open-minded is good enough. You can get the rest of the information you need by taking a little action and measuring how that makes you feel.

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The Shadow Factory

Nobody asked but …

This book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, by James Bamford, is an eye-opener.  It is now in its eleventh year, and nothing has probably changed except details (which Bamford covers exhaustively) — the hardware, software, people (in terms of a collective), data, procedures, and communications most likely have evolved.  While Bamford reports on the phenomena he discovered, at a cross-section in time, the subliminal message is that bureaucrats, given leeway, will expand their ambit far beyond what is seen by myopic and unrealistic planners.  None of this should be a surprise to us, since it is the demonstration to us of how things actually work, as described to us by Ludwig von Mises in his masterwork, Human Action.

All units (individuals) have agenda.  Each human will try to attach her agenda to the agenda at the highest levels attainable — for instance, in The Shadow Factory, the top set of agenda is that of the White House (nominally authored by George W. Bush, truly by Dick Cheney), a lower but very high set of agenda for the NSA, expressed by and through General Mike Hayden. Human action is motivated by opportunities to lessen unease. In this case, Hayden already had an agenda, but the incumbency of new bosses (formally Bush but more actively Chaney/Rumsfeld) created unease for Hayden about how the existing agenda could survive. It would survive by appearing to attach those (NSA/Hayden) agenda to selected agenda of the White House.

These are natural phenomena.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Rurality/Urbanity

Nobody asked but …

It is a voluntaryist’s decision to live in town or in the country, even on-the-grid or off-the-grid.  I, for instance, live at the edge of the grid.  But these things are in constant flux.  From the 19th century until the mid-20th century, in America, there was a vast migration of people from the farm to the city.  Then, in the 1950s, a new direction arose, spanning into the millennium, where people fled the center city, creating suburbs, which in turn became satellite urban areas,  And gradually, these urban agglomerations became the center city again, in character.  As an example, Chicago became Chicagoland.

All of this activity is underlain by an individual-by-individual seeking of simplicity, escaping from complexity.

The two poles, rural or urban, have existed since early civilization, with each having a pull.  People each choose the complexity of the marketplace that he or she will tolerate.  A person will gravitate toward a level of simplicity/complexity that gives her the optimum lack of unease.  People orient themselves through market choices.  The city attracts through multiplicity of choices of goods and services, whereas the countryside beckons with the choice of task focus.

Today, in America, it is obvious that goods and services exert a far greater pull on a far larger number of people, therefore we are an urban nation.  But we are past the point where the city pulls at its maximum.  Technology is spreading the market choices with less and less regard to geographic location of the buyers and sellers.  Concentrated nodes of transportation and communication are becoming less needed.

— Kilgore Forelle

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