Assigning Property Rights to Internet Data Creators

(p. C3) Congress has stepped up talk of new privacy regulations in the wake of the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, which improperly gained access to the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users. Even Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified that he thought new federal rules were “inevitable.” But to understand what regulation is appropriate, we need to understand the source of the problem: the absence of a real market in data, with true property rights for data creators. Once that market is in place, implementing privacy protections will be easy.
We often think of ourselves as consumers of Facebook, Google, Instagram and other internet services. In reality, we are also their suppliers–or more accurately, their workers. When we post and label photos on Facebook or Instagram, use Google maps while driving, chat in multiple languages on Skype or upload videos to YouTube, we are generating data about human behavior that the companies then feed into machine-learning programs.
These programs use our personal data to learn patterns that allow them to imitate human behavior and understanding. With that information, computers can recognize images, translate languages, help viewers choose among shows and offer the speediest route to the mall. Companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft (where one of us works) sell these tools to other companies. They also use our data to match advertisers with consumers.
Defenders of the current system often say that we don’t give away our personal data for free. Rather, we’re paid in the form of the services that we receive. But this exchange is bad for users, bad for society and probably not ideal even for the tech companies. In a real market, consumers would have far more power over the exchange: Here’s my data. What are you willing to pay for it?
An internet user today probably would earn only a few hundred dollars a year if companies paid for data. But that amount could grow substantially in the coming years. If the economic reach of AI systems continues to expand–into drafting legal contracts, diagnosing diseases, performing surgery, making investments, driving trucks, managing businesses–they will need vast amounts of data to function.
And if these systems displace human jobs, people will have plenty of time to supply that data. Tech executives fearful that AI will cause mass unemployment have advocated a universal basic income funded by increased taxes. But the pressure for such policies would abate if users were simply compensated for their data.

For the full commentary, see:
Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl. “Want Our Personal Data? Pay for It.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 21, 2018): C3.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 20, 2018.)

The commentary quoted above, is based on:
Posner, Eric A., and E. Glen Weyl. Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018.

Google Further Reduces Small Payments to Content Creators

YouTube is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google.

(p. A15) SAN FRANCISCO — The authorities believe a woman who shot three people at YouTube’s headquarters before killing herself on Tuesday [April 3, 2018] was angered by the social media outlet’s policies.
While the police did not specifically say what those policies were, they likely had to do with a concept called “demonetization.”
. . .
One of those creators was Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman the police said had shot YouTube employees in San Bruno, Calif. She frequently posted videos to several YouTube channels and had become increasingly angry over the money she was making from them.
“My Revenue For 300,000 Views Is $0.10?????” Ms. Aghdam wrote on her website, while calling YouTube “a dictatorship.”
. . .
Video creators take a share of the money from ads running before or alongside their videos. But YouTube has been raising the bar on qualifications for running ads.
Last April, the company said it would set a requirement for 10,000 cumulative lifetime views before allowing videos to gain ads. In January, the company raised that requirement to 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year and 1,000 subscribers.

For the full story, see:
NELLIE BOWLES and JACK NICAS. “YouTube Complaints From Attacker Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars.” The New York Times (Thursday, April 5, 2018): A15.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 4, 2018, and has the title “YouTube Attacker’s Complaints Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars.”)

Rival Retailers Failed in Effort to Cut Off Ikea’s Supplies

(p. B5) Ingvar Kamprad, born on a farm in the rock-strewn Swedish region of Småland, got his start as a merchant at around age 5 by buying matches in bulk and reselling them to neighbors.
He went on to pull off a rare feat: Creating a global retailing powerhouse, the furniture chain IKEA, with over 400 stores, in a business that generally has defied globalization. IKEA’s furniture has delighted bargain seekers for decades and made millions of dorm rooms and first apartments habitable, despite maddening the many customers who found the assembly instructions baffling.
. . .
One of his most successful notions was that furniture could be shipped and warehoused much more cheaply in disassembled form.
. . .
Rival retailers in Sweden, shocked by IKEA’s low prices, pressured furniture makers to cut off supplies to Mr. Kamprad’s company. That served only to make IKEA stronger as Mr. Kamprad found he could buy furniture much more cheaply from Polish plants. The search for foreign suppliers also helped IKEA turn itself into an international company.
. . .
Mr. Kamprad remained a penny-pincher, flying economy class and lecturing his employees that waste was sinful, according to “Leading by Design,” a 1999 biography by Bertil Torekull.

For the full obituary, see:
James R. Hagerty and Saabira Chaudhuri. “IKEA’s Founder Dies at 91.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, January 29, 2018): B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Jan. 28, 2018, and has the title “Ingvar Kamprad Built Global IKEA Chain From a Single Furniture Store in Sweden.”)

The autobiography of Kamprad, mentioned above, is:
Kamprad, Ingvar, and Bertil Torekull. Leading by Design: The Ikea Story New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Entrepreneur Claims Intel Is Not “Doing What Comes Next”

(p. B3) SAN FRANCISCO — Over 28 years at the giant computer chip maker Intel, Renée James climbed to its No. 2 position, becoming one of Silicon Valley’s prominent female leaders.
Now she is taking aim at Intel’s most lucrative business, one that she helped build.
Ms. James, who announced in 2015 that she would resign from Intel, on Monday revealed a start-up backed by the private equity firm Carlyle Group to sell chips to handle calculations in servers. Those computers run most internet services and corporate back-office operations.
. . .
Ms. James emphasized her respect for her former employer and played down potential competition. She said her new company, Ampere, was designing chips for new, specialized jobs at cloud services that aren’t Intel’s primary focus.
“I think they’re the best in the world at what they do,” Ms. James said of Intel. “I just don’t think they’re doing what comes next.”
. . .
Ms. James learned management skills from Andrew Grove, the acclaimed former Intel chief. Before he died in 2016, she said, Mr. Grove encouraged her to follow her dream of a chip start-up — a plan with parallels to the 1968 founding of Intel as a breakaway from a chip pioneer, Fairchild Semiconductor.
“He said, ‘I just want you to know, this is a really hard job,'” Ms. James recalled. “I said: ‘I know. But it’s so much fun.'”
Her venture is the latest in a series of largely unsuccessful attempts, dating back more than seven years, to shake up the server market with technology licensed by ARM Holdings that is used as a mainstay of smartphones. One selling point is reduced power consumption, a hot topic in data centers.

For the full story, see:
DON CLARK. “Intel’s Former No. 2 Aims At Lucrative Chip Market.” The New York Times (Tuesday, February 6, 2018): B3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 5, 2018, and has the title “She Was No. 2 at Intel. Now She’s Taking Aim at the Chip Maker.”)

“We Have to Entrepreneurialize Society”

Economist Klaus Schwab is the founder and organizer of the annual Davos gatherings of government and corporate insiders.

(p. R15) MR. BAKER: There has been a tremendous growth in industrial concentration, big companies getting bigger. Small companies are essentially being squeezed out. There’s a concern that it’s not just bureaucracies and supernational institutions, but companies themselves, are just too big and too remote. What can be done to address those concerns?
PROF. SCHWAB: We have to entrepreneurialize society. If we look where jobs will come from, they will come mainly from new enterprises, from medium-size enterprises. So companies and countries have to create an ecosystem which allows young people to create their own companies. We have to create new Facebook s, new Googles, and so on. Then we have the necessary dynamic situation which maintains a certain degree of competition in the economy.

For the full interview, see:
Gerard Baker, interviewer. “Nationalism vs. Globalism: A Question of Balance; Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, on how to deal with a fractured world.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018): R15.
(Note: bold in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has a date of Jan. 22, 2018.)

45 Start-Ups Working on New Processor Chips

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — For years, tech industry financiers showed little interest in start-up companies that made computer chips.
How on earth could a start-up compete with a goliath like Intel, which made the chips that ran more than 80 percent of the world’s personal computers? Even in the areas where Intel didn’t dominate, like smartphones and gaming devices, there were companies like Qualcomm and Nvidia that could squash an upstart.
But then came the tech industry’s latest big thing — artificial intelligence. A.I., it turned out, works better with new kinds of computer chips. Suddenly, venture capitalists forgot all those forbidding roadblocks to success for a young chip company.
Today, at least 45 start-ups are working on chips that can power tasks like speech and self-driving cars, and at least five of them have raised more than $100 million from investors. Venture capitalists invested more than $1.5 billion in chip start-ups last year, nearly doubling the investments made two years ago, according to the research firm CB Insights.
The explosion is akin to the sudden proliferation of PC and hard-drive makers in the 1980s. While these are small companies, and not all will survive, they have the power to fuel a period of rapid technological change.

For the full story, see:
CADE METZ. “Bets on A.I. Open a New Chip Frontier.” The New York Times (Mon., January 15, 2018): B1 & B3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 14, 2018, and has the title “Big Bets on A.I. Open a New Frontier for Chip Start-Ups, Too.”)

“Without Amazon, We Wouldn’t Be Here”

(p. B1) KANATA, Ontario — Truth be told, the headquarters of Instant Pot don’t look much like a church.
But inside this sterile, gray office building on the outskirts of Ottawa, behind a door marked only by a small metal sign, a new religion has been born.
Its deity is the Instant Pot, a line of electric multicookers that has become an internet phenomenon and inspired a legion of passionate foodies and home cooks. These devotees — they call themselves “Potheads” — use their Instant Pots for virtually every kitchen task imaginable: sautéing, pressure-cooking, steaming, even making yogurt and cheesecakes. Then, they evangelize on the internet, using social media to sing the gadget’s praises to the unconverted.
. . .
(p. B5) I went to Kanata to get a peek behind the scenes of the Instant Pot phenomenon and meet its creator: Robert Wang, who invented the device and serves as chief executive of Double Insight, its parent company. What I found was a remarkable example of a new breed of 21st-century start-up — a homegrown hardware business with only around 50 employees that raised no venture capital funding, spent almost nothing on advertising, and achieved enormous size primarily through online word-of-mouth. It is also a testament to the enormous power of Amazon, and its ability to turn small businesses into major empires nearly overnight.
. . .
In 2010, after several months of sluggish sales in and around Ontario, Mr. Wang listed the Instant Pot on Amazon, where a community of food writers eventually took notice. Vegetarians and paleo dieters, in particular, were drawn to the device’s pressure-cooking function, which shaved hours off the time needed to cook pots of beans or large cuts of meat.
Sensing viral potential, Instant Pot sent test units to about 200 influential chefs, cooking instructors and food bloggers. Reviews and recipes appeared online, and sales began to climb.
. . .
Mr. Wang credits the device’s technological advances — most notably, a group of sensors that keep the cooker from overheating or exploding under pressure.
Instant Pot’s internet fandom also gives it a leg up. The food bloggers behind popular recipe sites like Nom Nom Paleo were early converts to electric pressure-cooking, and cookbook authors took note of the device’s cult appeal. Mr. Wang says that more than 1,500 Instant Pot cookbooks have been written, including several of Amazon’s current best-sellers.
Amazon has played a particularly large role in Instant Pot’s rise. Early on, Instant Pot joined the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program, in which Amazon handles the packing and shipping of a seller’s products in exchange for a cut of each item sold. Eventually, Instant Pot sent Amazon wholesale shipments directly from factories in China, and Amazon began promoting the machines in its major annual sales. At one point, more than 90 percent of Instant Pot’s sales came through Amazon.
“Without Amazon, we wouldn’t be here,” Mr. Wang said.

For the full story, see:
KEVIN ROOSE. “The Shift; Instant Pot’s Inner Sanctum.” The New York Times (Mon., December 18, 2017): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 17, 2017, and has the title “The Shift; Inside the Home of Instant Pot, the Kitchen Gadget That Spawned a Religion.”)