MaRS to earth, come in earth

MaRS has a blog.

Up since September, I am glad that the “central node” of Toronto’s (and Ontario’s) research, innovation and commercialization ecosystem is using social media tools. Add it to your newsreader if you’re interested in what’s going on in the city in science, commercialization, entrepreneurship and related topics.

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The costs of climate change

Storm Clouds1One of the most interesting avenues for economics research today is in the area of environmental economics. From Mancur’s classicThe Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups” to today, we are still struggling with the economics of collective action and the tragedy of the commons. Our political paralysis over climate change and other environmental issues illustrates the need for new economic theory, policy mechanisms and political practice.
So I read with great interest the news of a report from the UK that attempts to take the climate change debate from the world of climate science to that of economics. The “Stern Report” was written by a former World Bank chief economist, Sir Nicholas Stern.

“Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century,” Sir Nicholas writes.

The report suggests that 1 per cent of global domestic product be spent immediately on dealing with climate change, to avoid higher costs later. Failure to act would lead to a drop of 5 to 20 per cent of global GDP and make large swaths of the Earth’s surface uninhabitable.

Tony Blair is positioning the UK as a global leader in the efforts to deal with climate change, and has signed on Al Gore as a special advisor to the government.

Continue reading “The costs of climate change”

Garth wants to be a digital boy

The latest from Garth Turner:

The digital generation, in real time, is instantly informed and ready to react. They don’t need to be told by MSM reporters and columnists what to think. They don’t wait twelve hours for stories to be written, turned into page layouts, put on presses, and then be delivered on paper by 12-year-olds. They’re beyond being told by TV talking heads what matters and what doesn’t. They are their own media. We’re all media.

The implications for political leaders are profound. The fact no other MP that I know of has an interactive web site is a worry. The fact most MPs rely on brochures sent to homes as unaddressed admail underscores the digital divide being created. This will change, of course. But as it does, there will be a grinding between the 19th Century form of representation we have now – the PM as president, not elected directly by the people and demanding unanimity of thought – and the 21st Century political reality in which democracy gets messy again, people have far more access and control, and the top guy will be, by necessity, a broker and an inspirational leader.

This excites the digital crowd. Excites me. One thing about the future – it’s coming.

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Everywhere I look, a new tech cluster

Via Rob Hyndman, news of a massive public-private funded project to develop a tech cluster in upstate New York:


Rob attended the recent meeting with ICT Toronto and registers his skepticism:

I’m a sceptic – I’m dubious that government can achieve anything of the sort – and my scepticism deepened considerably when I learned recently that the program has effectively no budget. Be that as it may, it’s a noble goal, and you can’t help but wish such well-meaning efforts well…

Again, I’m dubious, and the article quickly summarizes some of the reasons why scepticism may well be due, but in any event – $1 billion!! I’m not sure which effort I admire more – the ICT shoestring effort or the New York state deep pockets effort.

Continue reading “Everywhere I look, a new tech cluster”

YouTube, Jon Stewart, George Bush and Fair Use

[via BoingBoing]

YouTube Takes Down Comedy Central Clips Based on DMCA Claims

I received a couple of emails from YouTube this afternoon (see below) notifying me that a third party (probably attorneys for Comedy Central) had made a DMCA request to take down Colbert Report and Daily Show clips. If you visit YouTube, all Daily Show, Colbert Report and South Park clips now show “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.�

For a long time, Comedy Central has passively allowed the sharing of online clips of its shows—because let’s face it, it’s helped them generate the kind of water cooler talk that has made them a ton of money.

Mathew Ingram’s been all over this and the whole issue about whether Google’s takeover of YouTube was smart business.

The cultural and social importance of Daily Show clips as part of the political blogosphere can’t be understated. Without Jon Stewart’s recontextualizing political figures’ propaganda, public discourse would suffer. Yes, I’m serious. Clearly there is a public interest in fair use.

Stewart Goss

But apparently, all good things come to an end when there is money and attorneys involved. I assume the only online clips that will remain will have to qualify under fair use – probably short clips, with social or political importance.


Continue reading “YouTube, Jon Stewart, George Bush and Fair Use”

Andrew Sullivan on U.S. Detainee Bill

During my recent convalescence, I’ve been reading Andrew Sullivan’s blog a lot. In this appearance on Anderson Cooper’s show in September, Sullivan gives an impassioned plea for caution and an attempt to bring attention to the radical consolidation of executive power, permanent suspension of habeas corpus and embrace of torture in the recently passed U.S. Detainee Bill. It’s intelligent, thoughtful punditry:

COOPER: Why do you think, though, this story, this — what is happening really hasn’t gotten much traction? I mean, people don’t want to hear about it. I mean, I know the ratings for this segment are going to go down because people turn this stuff off.

SULLIVAN: That’s how it always happens. People always, when these things occur, look the other way. People think it’s always going to happen to someone else or they think that these people are somehow all terrorists. They’re terror suspects. 90 percent of the people we detained in Abu Ghraib were innocent, it turned out, as the U.S. admitted. Dozens of people in Guantanamo were completely innocent, as the Army and military subsequently admitted. So, there is no process to determine who is innocent or guilty in these matters. They’re being detained without charges.

This video clip goes on to describe the case of Canadian Maher Arar as evidence of the risks of this path.

And now to add evidence as to why torture is a flawed intelligence tool, we find out that some of the faulty intelligence used by Colin Powell at the UN (to make the argument that Sadaam was working with al Qaeda as justification for the Iraq invasion), was evidence extracted by torture.

A dangerous new chapter begins.

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Boy, how digital are you?

Tom posted a recent conversation with his parents:

Parents: have you seen that annoying commercial on the television?

me: I haven’t seen a commercial on the television in a few years (downloaded tv doesn’t have commercials)

well what about the radio commercial?

I don’t listen to commercial radio (just CBC and/or podcasts)

So what else do you listen to when you drive, just CDs?

I don’t own any CDs (switched to exclusively mp3, vinyl years ago)

So you just plug in your iPod when you’re driving?

Oh, I don’t drive anywhere (except in summer. To get where I need to go I take bikes, taxis, transit or airplanes not my own car)

parents: [no small skepticism] hmmm

Do you get the feeling the world is changing. Do you get the feeling that it’s not yet affecting everyone equally? am I an oddity or the prototypical future consumer? (I suppose I could be more-than-a-little of both)

Among my peer group, there is definitely a strong move away from traditional broadcast media. They are a new generation of Richard Florida’s “creative class”, who want their content when they want it in the form they want it. Ryan’s got a nice HDTV over-the-air tuner USB device which plugs into the new 24″ iMac beautifully. PVR functionality without paying Rogers $100/month.

The television business model is going into a challenging period. NBC has been talking about getting away from scripted TV for the 8:00 primetime slot, because they’re just too expensive and advertiser interest is waning.

Meanwhile, audience tastes are rapidly evolving. Shows like Lost, Weeds, Dexter and Battlestar Galactica are demonstrating an increased intensity in their relationship with the audience. Writers have been able to tap into that relationship to maintain dramatic intensity and complex story arcs that evolve over multiple seasons, gaining significant incremental revenues from DVD sales and iTunes episodes. In this new model, the creative content becomes all the more critical to success. Old style attempts to define and target mass market appeal through focus-grouped crap will become less sustainable, at least for scripted television.

I’m looking forward to HD quality downloads paid for by subscription.  That would be an innovation that I’d pay for.

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Blogging and democracy

GarthturnerHaving been stuck at home sick far too much lately, I’ve been following political news more than usual. Garth Turner’s banishment from the federal Conservative caucus is a fascinating story. With all the optics of a heavy-handed reaction to control independent thought and expression by a draconian and communications-obsessed Harper PMO, John Ibbitson argued that the move could blowback on the Conservatives.

Garth’s blog is central to the whole episode – he spoke his mind, freely, openly and with total transparency like a good blogger should. Passionate about the possibilities of “digital democracy”, now Independent MP Garth of Halton is a socially-progressive libertarian. But party politics, particularly in a highly centralized policy shop like Harper’s Conservative government, makes such independence, transparency and openness a career limiting move. I’ve found it fascinating to follow his story and inside perspective of parliament, including today’s post about the often infantile, frequently entertaining drama of question period and the continuing saga of Belinda and Peter’s star-crossed love. (Seen here in happier days.)

BelindapeterThe Garth Turner episode is a fascinating collision between two sets of values: those of openness, transparency and accountability and the values of political power and control. Are blogs a solution to responsibility and accountability failures in politics? Maybe, to a point. Political action and party politics require a degree of control over message in order to maintain the power necessary to move an agenda forward. It appears that blogging (and the conversations it enables) tends to come with those values of openness and accountability firmly embedded. But I think that widespread adoption might just turn politicians’ blogs into just another mainstream medium for messaging and spin without authenticity – just like bad, boring corporate blogs. It is Garth’s independence, and the controversy it sparked, that makes his blog worth reading for a wider audience today. With that national platform and audience, Garth’s blog and the story of his turfing from caucus has released a couple of memes into the wider culture. How can social media change politics? Is central party control the only way to govern this country?

Politics and blogging are strange bedfellows. Because of my role as an independent consultant who has been doing work for the Ontario government, I have avoided writing about politics on this blog. I have tried to focus my writing on my interests in public policy, technology and business in a politically neutral way. But everything is political, so drawing those lines becomes more and more difficult. So, I added a Politics category and I’m letting myself venture into the issues of the day in the hope of encouraging conversations on topics neglected in mainstream media.

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