Category: Technology

epipen22Pharmaceutical company Mylan recently spurred a flurry of outrage after raising the price of their lifesaving EpiPen by 400%, leading many to decry “corporate greed” and point the finger at capitalism.

Unfortunately, such anger routinely fails to consider the systemic reasons as to why Mylan can charge such prices, resorting instead to knee-jerk calls for fresh tricks by the FDA and new layers of price-fixing tomfoolery from Washington.

Yet the problem, as detailed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney in a new video from FEE, begins with the very same interventions, back-room deals, and price manipulations that the critics now propose.

Why, we might ask, is Mylan able to wield this monopolistic power and exploit its consumers with little challenge? As Mulvaney demonstrates, the answer has far more to do with the FDA, Congress, President Obama, and the Affordable Care Act than a free market with free-flowing prices. (more…)

Wall-E1Humans have a tendency to daydream about a day or a place where work is no more, whether it be a retirement home on a golf course or a utopian society filled with leisure and merriment.

But is a world without work all that desirable?

In a recent lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the question is explored by Dr. Hunter Baker, winner of the Acton Institute’s 2011 Novak Award and author, most recently, of The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life.

Countering the cultural priorities and pressures of the day, Baker outlines a robust Christian vision of work and the economy, drawing on thinkers such as Wilhelm Röpke and Lester DeKoster, as well as science fiction fixtures such as WALL-E, 1984, and Beggars in Spain.

“Work is a gift from God, not a curse,” says Baker. “…The science fiction dreams of human beings released from all labor should probably better be seen as nightmares…We are made to continually be in fellowship with one another, working, creating value, giving, receiving. This is who God has made us to be.” (more…)

virtual-choir-whitacre-water-nightThe rise of globalization and the expansion of trade are continuously decried for their disruptive effects, particularly as they apply to “authentic community.”

Indeed, our strides in global connectedness have often come at a local cost, with the small and familiar being routinely replaced by the big and blurry, the intimate with the superficial, and so on. The shift is real and widespread, but it needn’t be the framework of the future.

Disruption is sure to continue as collaboration expands and innovation accelerates around the globe. But while we’re right to be cautious of the merits of such change, we mustn’t forget the opportunities it presents, not just for our economy or personal wellbeing, but for community itself.

Examples of these fruits abound and surround us, from trade to technology to niche hobbies to global missions and so forth, but I was reminded of it recently while watching a “virtual choir” performance by Eric Whitacre, the famous composer and conductor.

Known best for his choral works, Whitacre continues to leverage the technological tools of globalization to gather singers from around the world, each submitting an individual video to contribute to a massive global choir. (more…)

net-neutrality-op-660x528-660x420What just happened?

On Monday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), saying the agency had the legal authority to enact their Open Internet Order (i.e., net neutrality rules.)

What was this case about?

Last Spring the CTIA, the trade group that represents the wireless communication sectors, filed a lawsuit with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the FCC’s decision to “impose sweeping new net neutrality rules and reclassifying mobile broadband as a common carrier utility.” The CTIA had argued that the the FCC had “opted to resuscitate a command-and-control regulatory regime, including a process where innovators must first seek permission from the FCC before rolling out new services.” In so doing, they claim, the FCC “usurped the role of Congress and departed from a bipartisan mobile-specific framework to create a new intrusive regulatory framework.”

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality (short for “network neutrality”) refers to both a design principle and laws that attempt to regulate and enforce that principle. The net neutrality principle is the idea that a public information network should aspire to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. At its simplest, network neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally and that every website — from Google.com to Acton.org — should be treated the same when it comes to giving users the bandwidth to reach the internet-connected services they prefer.

Net neutrality laws are legislation or regulation that prevents Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating or charging different prices based on such criteria as user, content, site, platform, application, or type of attached equipment.

What is the basic argument in favor of net neutrality regulation?
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Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, March 10, 2016
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Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!

Oh, dear! GMO cassava can potentially feed millions on the African continent? Heaven forfend!

If you grew up outside the African and South American continents you can be forgiven for thinking cassava is the latest variation of salsa music or perhaps the funky new energy beverage trendy hipsters are drinking these days. In Africa, however, 500 million individuals recognize cassava as a dietary staple much like the rest of the world enjoys potatoes and rice.

Native to South America, cassava was introduced to Africa by Portuguese colonists. Many cassava species exist in South America, however, that cannot be exported to Africa due to cassava mosaic disease, a virus exclusive to Africa. Eighty percent of the African cassava crop perished from mosaic disease in the 1920s, resulting in widespread famine. Other threats to the cassava include such pests as the cassava mealy bug and the cassava green mite.

Addressing this Third-World problem requires some agricultural-science expertise, which most certainly will chagrin the scientifically challenged, anti-genetically modified organism crowd. Because, you know, frankenfoods and such. Readers will remember Green America, among the most outspoken group of GMO detractors. Green America boasts Ceres and US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing affiliations. In turn, these affiliates trumpet their relationships with religious shareholder activists As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Green America’s outspokenness on GMOs includes reposting a Sept. 2014 article by Debbie Barker, International Programs Director, Center for Food Safety, in which she cavils:

Similarly, the biotech industry touted that cassava, one of the most important starch crops in Africa, was enriched with greatly increased protein content using genetic engineering. However, the research article claiming the elevated protein was later retracted when it was found that the purported increased protein did not exist.

While Barker’s assertion may contain some verity, it’s also quite shortsighted. After all, while the initial protein content of GM cassava may fall short of desired results, it’s also important to ensure the cassava plant depended upon by millions for nourishment is resistant to viruses and pests. Methinks Ms. Barker doth protest too much. You gotta walk before you can run, and recent developments reveal GM cassava is picking up a head of steam. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
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bitcoin-minerOver the past couple of years I’ve fallen into a habit of infrequently pointing out the flaws, dangers, and threats to Bitcoin as a viable cryptocurrency. While I find the experiment in alternative currency intriguing, I’m just as intrigued by criticisms made against Bitcoin. Even if Bitcoin ultimately fails, it will provide numerous valuable lessons about peer-based innovation, and the criticisms that were warranted can help us avoid pitfalls in the future.

We won’t know, of course, which criticisms are valid or what will lead to the downfall of Bitcoin until after it happens (my guess is will be due to government regulation). But some criticisms are more interesting than others. Take, for instance, this point that I had never considered before: it takes a lot of energy (and money) to produce a single Bitcoin.

I was aware that the process of Bitcoin mining requires substantial computing power and therefore must use up some amount of electricity. It just never occurred to me, until economist John Quiggin’s recent article, how much energy (and money) were required:
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We’ve seen lots of commentary on the lopsided outrage over the inhumane death of Cecil the Lion — how the incident has inspired far higher levels of fervor and indignation than the brutal systemic barbarism of the #PPSellsBabyParts controversy or the tragically unjust murder of Samuel Dubose.

At first, I was inclined to shrug off this claim, thinking, “You can feel pointed grief about one while still feeling empathy about the other.” Or, “the facts of the Cecil case are perhaps clearer to more people.” Or, “How can we be sure this imbalance actually exists?”

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But alas, the social media rants and media (non-)developments of the past few days have only continued to confirm that the reaction we are witnessing is, indeed, stemming from some kind of distorted social, moral, and spiritual imagination. This isn’t just about what is or isn’t bubbling up in the news cycle. It’s about what’s brewing, and in some cases, festering deep inside our hearts. (more…)