More good stuff on the open frontiers – 12/12

There are wonderful things going on in the tech world. Also some not so great things in education and publishing. Here’s a few articles on the good and not-so-good stuff.


12/8 – Economist – Free the drones / Drones have immense commercial potential—so long as regulators don’t try to tether them to the ground

The beneficial impact from drones is going to be huge. There will be dramatic drops in the cost to do a lot of things. FAA proposal for rules on drones are expected soon. The anticipated framework:

But draft proposals due in the next few weeks are expected to show that the FAA continues to take a restrictive view, requiring drone operators to have experience flying manned aircraft and to keep drones within sight at all times. The drone industry suspects that this is regulatory capture—that the FAA is acting as a lobby for pilots.

Well, regulatory capture is something we do well in the U.S. Reasonable rules are needed. If not?

The [current, absolute commercial] ban is widely ignored and the new rules will probably be too. Unlicensed flights will be uncharted, the craft unidentified and their operators uninsured.

Here’s a radical concept: tailor the rules.

The right way to balance safety and innovation is to create a set of rules for commercial drones that depend on their size, use and so on. … The rules should also vary according to location, since surveying the outside of a building in a city is more hazardous than flying over a field.

Oh, and the requirement that any drone flyer must be a licensed pilot? Article says

And requiring drone pilots to have experience flying manned aircraft is daft.

Let me translate that: the pilot license requirement is astoundingly stupid.

The transition? Painful.

The payoff? Huge.

11/28 – Walter Reed at The American Interest – Piece by Piece, the Blue Model Sickens and Dies – Taxi medallions, the official permit to operate a taxicab, used to sell for over a million dollars. Recent prices are down to $872K. The reason is the technology revolution. Uber and Lyft are rapidly replacing and destroying the traditional monopoly on taxis. The regulatory system for taxis is essentially the same as a medieval guild, according to one school of thought: the way to limit outsiders from getting inside. Other politically powerful and politically protected industries are also vulnerable.

Such change will be difficult and painful. The emerging companies doing the disrupting could evolve into their own guild. But radical change is in process.

12/1 – Daily Bulletin – A look at Amazon’s San Bernardino Fulfillment Center on Cyber Monday – Good survey of the fulfillment center that is about half an hour east of where I live. Center has a million square feet of space in the warehouse. There are 2,000 year-round employees and an additional 2,000 seasonal staff.

Amazon has 5 centers like this in California, 50 across the US, and a total of 100 around the world.

With this new facility, I often get packages next afternoon after ordering and sometimes next morning. Haven’t ordered something around 7 or 8 in the morning, so don’t know if there is a certain time window when they provide same business day delivery.


12/5 – Megan McArdle at Bloomberg View – Tech Mogels and the TNR Meltdown – Tech billionaires making a go of it after buying a media property isn’t such an easy thing. The New Republic went supernova in the last few days. Current info is they will suspend its publication of the next edition.

Article points out that the culture, people, economics, environment, product, and just about everything else in the media world is different from the high-tech world.

Stay tuned.


12/1 – New York Times – Most College Students Don’t Earn a Degree in 4 Years, Study FindsOn time graduation stats:

  • 19% of full-time students graduate in 4 years
  • 36% of students at elite state schools graduate in 4 years
  • 50 of 580 public schools – number that graduate over half of their students in 4 years
  • 5% of full-time community college students earn a 2 year degree in 2 years
  • 16% of community college students earn a certificate on time

Taking 5 or 6 or more years for a degree means students pick up a far higher amount of tuition bills and carry far more student loans. Also lose one or two or more years of earnings.

Sounds to me like that would be a grade of D- or F for higher education.

Presumably as a defense for the systemic poor performance at the collegiate level, a representative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities pointed out that students aren’t learning as much as they should.

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