Friday, January 17, 2014

Apple and the options option

Think triage. Take a collection of companies that Apple might be interested in buying and they will fall into one of three groups: 1) yes, buy it now, 2) not currently a good fit, or 3) a good business partner, but Apple would only need to buy it to keep it from falling into the hands of a competitor.

An option, for that third category, would be for Apple to acquire an option to buy each company they consider vital to their own business, so that, if a competitor were to make a (verifiably legitimate) offer to buy one of these, Apple would have the option of interdicting that purchase by matching the competitor's offer themselves, or if they elected not to do so they should at least be provided with evidence that the terms which had been presented to them were the actual terms of the competitor's purchase, and not a trumped-up figure. Moreover, if Apple decided not to accept the terms of the buyout, and the competitor backed out of the deal, the company under consideration of acquisition should refund the cost of Apple's option, unless Apple were to respond with a counter offer which they accepted.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Koreas's ‘East Germany’ and the role of China

Korea, South Korea, is at the top of its game. That's not to say that a fall is imminent, nor even on the horizon, only that their current degree of engineering prowess and economic prosperity is unprecedented and, to use an over-worn expression, world class.

The other Korea, North Korea, by contrast, is decades behind the world community in almost every respect, a situation compounded by the malnourishment of its people.

This set of circumstances is very like that which existed in Germany (then West & East Germany, respectively), just prior to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. For West Germany, reunification was initially a disruptive burden, owing to the poor economic condition of the east, but it also meant a suddenly expanded labor force sharing a common language.

In Korea reunification seems a remote possibility, at present, but a shift in the political wind in the north could change that rather quickly. And don't expect much in the way of resistance from China, since North Korea's persistent cult of the leader makes communism look worse than it otherwise would, and reunification would provide them with a more prosperous trading partner in place of the burden North Korea currently represents to them.

But the really interesting dynamic would be how the economy of Korea as a whole would benefit from reunification, through the combination of North Korean labor, which could be made far more potent by means of a little food aid, and South Korean industrial ability, which, automated as it is, can still make good use of less expensive labor.

Even more than with Germany, language would bind and lubricate Korean reunification, since the Korean language is not widely spoken outside of the peninsula and also not strongly subdivided into dialects. Even without exclusionary laws, the common language would help insure that South Korean business had special access to the North Korean labor pool.

One major question remains; can some degree of economic reunification proceed without a regime change in the north? If China were to signal that North Korea should look to its southern sister for assistance, that seeming impossibility would suddenly become a matter of how much how soon, and for China that would be a matter of shrugging off a burden.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

belief in evolution not necessarily an evolutionary advantage

While acknowledging your right to disagree, for the present purpose I'm going to assume that the ‘theory of evolution’ (really more of an established principle) is essentially correct, along with all of the usual corollaries.

However, it does not follow that holding this view, however orthodox and realistically unassailable it may be, confers any evolutionary advantage whatsoever upon those who hold it. In fact the advantage, as measured by fecundity, may belong to those who hold another view, for example that humans have existed in our present form since the beginning of time, a view that approximately one third of Americans espouse. (Pew Research via Reuters)

While there are practical limits on how far one's internal model of the world may diverge from reality without negative repercussions upon one's chances for contributing to the gene pool of the future, social cohesion probably matters more than accuracy in something as esoteric as the origin of the human species. If access to resources depends in any tangible way upon echoing the views of those around you, however erroneous, voicing disagreement is likely to prove counterproductive, in terms of natural selection, even when your view is correct and theirs is not – perhaps especially then.

Nor should there be anything surprising about this. Science is a relatively young phenomenon. For most of the time since the emergence of humanity, we have dealt with our own unknown origins by telling stories, frequently quite fanciful stories involving magical beings, also frequently transforming those stories into dogma as some groups became dominant and others subservient. The need for some explanation, even if a vacuous one, might be considered a defining characteristic of the human species, as distinguished from chimps, for example, who lack complex language and presumably therefore also lack the need for explanations regarding questions they lack the capacity to pose, much less to contemplate at length.

And so we still do, traffic in stories that is. For most of us, most of what we know is composed, not of data and analysis, but of stories, sometimes based on data and analysis, more often not, or at least not directly so. Even so, the majority of us have had enough exposure to science to recognize reliable methods and reasonable conclusions, and make use of that general familiarity in filtering the stories to which we are exposed.

The lingering question is whether we should be concerned over higher rates of childbirth among people whose story filters are less well developed. Is there a risk of resultant devolution? Perhaps, if it were to persist for another few thousand years, but cultural evolution is happening far more quickly and there are far more pressing issues to worry about. We do, however, need to continue to put effort into bridging the gap between scientific methods and popular beliefs, working to improve everyone's story filters.

Public Domain Day 2014

Today is Public Domain Day 2014. (Follow the link to learn more about Public Domain Day and the current state of copyright law.)

To be brief, government has no natural interest in protecting intellectual property of any sort unless doing so results in an improvement in the volume, quality, and/or relevance (largely a function of timeliness) of material passing into the public domain.