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The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling
airport security, Burning Man, cuban missile crisis, digital map, glass ceiling, Grace Hopper, half of the world's population has never made a phone call, Iridium satellite, market bubble, new economy, packet switching, pirate software, profit motive, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, thinkpad, V2 rocket, Y2K
And if the zenith angle was exactly right, then the solar panels on a passing satellite might gleam down at the Earth for a few precious instants: a flare five times brighter than Venus. DeFanti had extremely personal and very complicated feelings about satellites. Especially Iridium satellites, though spy satellites had always been his premier line of work. He had wanted in on the Iridium project so very badly. He had violently hated the engineers and financiers who had somehow launched a major global satellite communications network without him. And then he’d been astounded to see the whole enterprise simply fold up and collapse. These wonderful Iridium satellites, dozens of high-tech metal birds each the size of a bus, beautifully designed, working perfectly and just as planned, costing more per pound than solid gold: they were glories of technology with no business model.
These wonderful Iridium satellites, dozens of high-tech metal birds each the size of a bus, beautifully designed, working perfectly and just as planned, costing more per pound than solid gold: they were glories of technology with no business model. The engineers had built them, and yet no one had come. Earthly cell phones were so much quicker, cheaper, smaller. The bankrupted satellites were doomed to be de-orbited and flung, one by one, into the black, chilly depths of the Atlantic Ocean. This awful fate made the Iridium satellites very precious to DeFanti. The Most Important Man in the World had known some failures of his own, true agonies of the spirit. He never gloated at the wreckage of anybody else’s grand ambitions. He had learned to watch such things with care, searching for men with drive who had the guts to survive the midnight of the soul. Such men were useful. A long feathery brushstroke in the west touched his steadily darkening sky. DeFanti scowled. That mark was a jet’s contrail, and by its angle across the heavens, DeFanti knew at once that the jet was headed for the Pinecrest private airstrip.
Van pulled a chunk of chicken from the bucket and jammed it in his mouth. He gnawed silently as the rest of them chattered happily. Then Van dumped his bare chicken bone and went out to the Rover. He beeped it open and fetched the Iridium phone. It was heavy and shaped like a brick. Van hadn’t yet had a chance to try out an Iridium phone. The phones were clumsy, expensive, and didn’t work indoors. The Iridium satellite network had gone broke—but at the last minute, the new post-bankruptcy owners had been rescued by the U.S. Defense Department. The U.S. military had suddenly realized that it might be pretty handy to have phones that worked off-road in places like Afghanistan. Now Van would take the plunge for the first time as well. A fatal announcement like accepting Jeb’s job was worth the ridiculous Iridium charge of two dollars a minute.
3D printing, A Pattern Language, additive manufacturing, air freight, Airbnb, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, c2.com, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, crowdsourcing, Douglas Engelbart, dumpster diving, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, future of work, Google Chrome, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Hacker Ethic, Internet of things, Iridium satellite, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, Mason jar, means of production, Minecraft, minimum viable product, Network effects, Oculus Rift, patent troll, popular electronics, QR code, Rodney Brooks, Shenzhen was a fishing village, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social software, software as a service, special economic zone, speech recognition, subscription business, telerobotics, urban planning, web application, Y Combinator
They’re part of the London Zoo and they’ve got a wildlife camera project going on. They’ve got several components. One of them is they’re going to give these cameras to kids. So all kinds of kids can build a wildlife camera to put in their garden or on their windowsill to take a picture of the garden at night. One really cool thing is that they’re going take these and put them in Africa. They’re going to hook them to Iridium satellite phones. That’s what they do. They put them in the field in Africa, with solar-powered batteries and the Iridium phone. They take the infrared filter off the cameras, for a sort of night vision. And they use it to keep track of animals. And they use it to look for poachers. I think the things are going to have microphones, so they can hear gunshots. If you’ve got multiples of these nearby, then you can look at the time that the gunshot sound arrives and triangulate the location of the gunshot.
Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours (And What to Do About It) by Salim Ismail, Yuri van Geest
23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, Burning Man, business intelligence, business process, call centre, chief data officer, Chris Wanstrath, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, cross-subsidies, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dark matter, Dean Kamen, dematerialisation, discounted cash flows, distributed ledger, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, ethereum blockchain, Galaxy Zoo, game design, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, hiring and firing, Hyperloop, industrial robot, Innovator's Dilemma, intangible asset, Internet of things, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, lifelogging, loose coupling, loss aversion, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, means of production, minimum viable product, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, offshore financial centre, p-value, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, prediction markets, profit motive, publish or perish, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, social software, software is eating the world, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, subscription business, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tony Hsieh, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, urban planning, WikiLeaks, winner-take-all economy, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game
Soon enough, however, a more radical but also more profitable solution presented itself: a constellation of seventy-seven satellites (Iridium is number seventy-seven on the periodic table) that would cover the globe at low Earth orbit and provide mobile telephony for one price—no matter the location. And, Motorola concluded, if just a million people in various developed countries paid $3,000 for a satellite phone, plus a $5-per-minute usage fee, the satellite network would quickly become profitable. Of course, we now know Iridium failed spectacularly, ultimately costing its investors $5 billion. In fact, the satellite system was doomed before it was even put in place, one of the most dramatic victims of technological innovation. There were several reasons behind Iridium’s failure. Even as the company was launching its satellites, the cost of installing cell phone towers was dropping, network speeds were increasing by orders of magnitude, and handsets were shrinking in both size and price. To be fair, Iridium was hardly alone in its misjudgment. Competitors Odyssey and Globalstar both made the same fundamental mistake.
Thus have computational improvements in weather forecasting delivered a body blow to an industry as seemingly immune to technology advances as Buenos Aires car wash operators. To fully comprehend the sheer acceleration we’re seeing, recall the $10 billion in investment that was lost on Iridium and other satellite efforts in the 90s. Today, twenty years later, a new breed of satellite companies—Skybox, Planet Labs, Nanosatisfi and Satellogic—are all launching nanosatellites (which are, essentially, the size of a shoebox). The cost per launch is about $100,000 per satellite—a fraction of the $1 billion Iridium incurred per launch for its constellation. More important, by launching a cluster of nanosatellites operating in a coordinated, meshed configuration, the capability of these new satellites blows away what the previous generation could do. For example, Planet Labs already has thirty-one satellites in orbit and plans to launch another one hundred during 2014.
If we can’t guarantee you success, we can at least put you on the right playing field and show you the new rules of the game. These two advantages, plus your own initiative, offer good odds for being a winner in the new world of Exponential Organizations. Part One Exploring the Exponential Organization In this segment, we’ll explore the characteristics, attributes and implications of Exponential Organizations. CHAPTER ONE Illuminated by Information While the original Iridium Moment caused enormous embarrassment for the satellite industry, you may be surprised to learn that there have been many similar but less-publicized Iridium moments in the mobile phone industry. For example, because mobile phones in the early 80s were bulky and expensive to use, renowned consulting firm McKinsey & Company advised AT&T not to enter the mobile telephone business, predicting there would be fewer than one million cellular phones in use by 2000.
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
desegregation, inventory management, Iridium satellite, Joseph Schumpeter, Mason jar, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Toyota Production System, traveling salesman
The pilot crawled down from the smoking airplane, then turned and kissed it. Sprey laughed. It was one of the greatest moments of his life to see that the airplane whose design he influenced was the only aircraft in the theater that could have brought its pilot home after suffering such damage. Ray Leopold is vice president and chief technology officer of Motorola, where he continues to be an achiever. He was one of three engineers who created the iridium satellite-based cell-phone network and is a much-sought-after speaker at technical and telecommunications symposia. Leopold holds twenty-six U.S. patents and has patents issued or pending in about fifty countries. He is a senior lecturer at MIT. He lives in Arizona and keeps in touch with the other Acolytes. As Boyd lay dying, Franklin “Chuck” Spinney wrote him a letter saying, “I will do my best to continue the good work you taught me to do.”
Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy, Peter Telep
Moore and his young recruit Rana had observed three men near a stand of trees on the hilltop, but these men were too low and too far away to see their faces, even with binoculars. Rana assumed that they were Taliban fighters, sentries on the perimeter, and Moore agreed. He and Rana hiked back across the foothills, down into a ravine, then up to high ground, from where Moore made a call with his Iridium satellite phone. The mountainous terrain interfered with reception if he got too deep into the cuts and ravines, but he usually picked up a clean signal from the mountaintops, where, of course, he was more vulnerable to detection. He reached the detachment commander of an ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) team, one of the Army’s elite Special Forces groups. As a SEAL, Moore had worked alongside these boys in Afghanistan, and he had a deep respect for them, even though barbs were traded regarding which group had the most effective and deadly warriors.
There are many other friends and supporters who have helped me greatly, including my former English and history teacher Rob Devling, longtime friends Cordell Scaife, Ben Kozel, and Todd Tai, and more recent friend Joss Stewart. Thanks to the many others not mentioned here. Lastly, it would never have been possible to carry out this journey without the support of sponsors. I would like to thank the following: MAIN SPONSORS Iridium, satellite phone communications Internetrix.net, particularly support from Daniel Rowan Saxtons Speaking Bureau, especially Nannette and Winston Moulton The Australian Geographic Society MEDIUM-LEVEL SPONSORS Bogong Horseback Adventures (Victoria, Australia) Horses and Horsemen (Margaret River, Western Australia) Odyssey Travel Mountain Designs Spelean Australia, distributors of such brands as MSR, Therma-Rest, and Platypus Reflex Sports Fujifilm, with special thanks to Graham Carter and Darren at CPL Digital Services, Melbourne.
When Things Start to Think by Neil A. Gershenfeld
3D printing, Ada Lovelace, Bretton Woods, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Dynabook, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, invention of movable type, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, means of production, new economy, Nick Leeson, packet switching, RFID, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, the medium is the message, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush
While China was busy worrying about whether to allow official Internet access, packets were already being sent through a satellite link that had been set up for high-energy physics experiments. Now constellations of low-earth-orbit satellites are being launched that will bring the convenience of a cell-phone network everywhere on the globe. Motorola's Iridium system comprises 100 + WHEN THINGS START TO THINK sixty-six such satellites. (It was originally named after the seventyseventh element, iridium, because it was going to have seventyseven satellites, but when it was reduced to sixty-six satellites the name wasn't changed because the sixty-sixth element is dysprosium.) Governments, and private companies, are launching spy satellites for commercial applications. These satellites can almost read a license plate from space. Soon, the only way to cut a country off from the rest of the world will be to build a dome over it.
Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry by Jacquie McNish, Sean Silcoff
Albert Einstein, Clayton Christensen, corporate governance, diversified portfolio, indoor plumbing, Iridium satellite, patent troll, QWERTY keyboard, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, the new new thing
BlackBerry’s sturdier network and packet-sending capabilities allowed users to send messages as long as sixteen thousand characters and there were no limits on monthly e-mail volume. Motorola had the resources to out-engineer BlackBerry. But the communications giant was preoccupied with corporate restructuring and lost interest in what it considered a niche messaging market. Also, Motorola was convinced the future of wireless communications lay in outer space, investing heavily in a consortium of satellites called Iridium to provide global wireless phone service. The project was plagued with challenges. Satellite phones were too expensive at $3,000 each and service was spotty.8 Iridium filed for bankruptcy in 1999, and Motorola wrote off billions of dollars it had invested in the company. With competitors preoccupied or looking elsewhere, the long-shot from Waterloo moved into the lead of a race for mobile data business that everyone had underestimated. From the voice on the other end of the line, Lisa Garrard knew this wouldn’t be a pleasant call.
Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything by Stephen Baker
23andMe, AI winter, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, business process, call centre, clean water, commoditize, computer age, Frank Gehry, information retrieval, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, job automation, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, statistical model, theory of mind, thinkpad, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!
Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson
airport security, augmented reality, barriers to entry, British Empire, cable laying ship, call centre, cellular automata, edge city, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Hacker Ethic, impulse control, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Just-in-time delivery, Kevin Kelly, music of the spheres, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, oil shock, packet switching, pirate software, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social web, Socratic dialogue, South China Sea, special economic zone, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, X Prize
If satellites and launches were cheap, a more easygoing attitude toward their design and construction might prevail. But in general they are, pound for pound, among the most expensive objects ever made even before millions of dollars are spent launching them into orbit. Relatively mass-produced satellites, such as those in the Iridium and Orbcomm constellations, cost on the order of $10,000/lb. The communications birds in geostationary orbit—the ones used for satellite television, e.g.—are two to five times as expensive, and ambitious scientific/defense payloads are often $100,000 per pound. Comsats can only be packed so close together in orbit, which means that there is a limited number of available slots—this makes their owners want to pack as much capability as possible into each bird, helping jack up the cost.
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, call centre, clean water, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, fixed income, follow your passion, game design, global village, Iridium satellite, knowledge worker, late fees, Maui Hawaii, oil shock, paper trading, Parkinson's law, passive income, peer-to-peer, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, remote working, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Steve Jobs, Vilfredo Pareto, wage slave, William of Occam
affirmative action, airport security, Ayatollah Khomeini, clean water, cognitive dissonance, corporate governance, data acquisition, death of newspapers, Extropian, Howard Rheingold, illegal immigration, informal economy, information asymmetry, Iridium satellite, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, means of production, mutually assured destruction, offshore financial centre, open economy, packet switching, pattern recognition, pirate software, placebo effect, Plutocrats, plutocrats, prediction markets, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, Robert Bork, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, telepresence, trade route, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game, Zimmermann PGP
Because they already own extensive rights of way, across the country and into most American homes, natural gas companies bid fair to become huge players in the information age, simply by stringing tiny fiber-optic cables alongside already existing lines. The same holds for railroads—one created a subsidiary called MCI. Their chief competitor in the short term will be cable television operators, whose “cable modem” capabilities may dominate the field in the immediate future. 34 ... new era of wireless communication ... A consortium led by Motorola is creating the “Iridium Project,” whose sixty-six low-orbiting satellites will offer worldwide digital telephony service. Another group, Teledesic, involving Microsoft and McCaw Communications, has the more ambitious aim of using hundreds of satellites to transfer data, and even real-time video, between millions of users all over the globe. 37 ... midwifing something that might ultimately distribute authority ... Part of the reason may lie in longstanding U.S. military doctrine, which has for generations trained junior officers to exercise initiative, if necessary operating for long periods without orders.
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy
Albert Einstein, business process, complexity theory, Iridium satellite, Long Term Capital Management, NetJets, old-boy network, shareholder value, six sigma, social software, Socratic dialogue, supply-chain management
You burrow through the five or six issues to provide data and make recommendations and debate, and ultimately you achieve a resolution. That’s part of a productive strategic planning exercise. Many strategies fall apart because the right critical issues aren’t raised. AT&T’s critical issues included the decline in long-distance revenues and the organizational capability to execute a major shift in strategy. The Iridium consortium—the joint effort of Motorola and TRW to develop a satellite telecommunications system able to link phones worldwide—confronted two critical issues. One was how to create enough demand to bring prices down enough to build a sizable market; the other (related to the first) was to develop handheld units small enough that consumers would be able to conveniently carry them around. The strategy failed on both counts. In 2001 Dell Computer was beginning to face its critical issue—the dim long-term outlook for PCs.
Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight by Chris Dubbs, Emeline Paat-dahlstrom, Charles D. Walker
Berlin Wall, call centre, desegregation, Donald Trump, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, high net worth, Iridium satellite, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, Mark Shuttleworth, Mikhail Gorbachev, multiplanetary species, Norman Mailer, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, technoutopianism, V2 rocket, X Prize, young professional
In February 1995 Zubrin gave Lauer the opportunity to act on those beliefs when he asked him to participate in "this little suborbital space plane project." Zubrin and Clapp were already working on the Black Horse and Black Colt projects for the Air Force, and commercial prospects for private launch companies had never looked better. In 1995 the telecommunications boom was in full swing. Mega-telecommunications companies like Iridium and Teledesic were fueling the market for big launch systems, with plans to launch more than a thousand communication satellites. So that same year, Lauer, Clapp, and Zubrin put together the business plan for what would be called Pioneer Rocketplane. The launch system would consist of a reusable first stage plane and an expendable second stage to take satellite payloads to orbit. They attracted some angel investors on the prospects of becoming a satellite launch service business.