Articles by Cord Blomquist

Cord Blomquist spends most of his time pining for the singularity. To pass the time while waiting for this convergence, he serves as the New Media Manager at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Before landing this sweet gig, Cord hocked policy writing for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, toiled in the halls of Congress, and even worked in a crouton factory. In college, Cord spent his hours studying political philosophy and artificial intelligence, resulting in an unhealthy obsession with Lt. Commander Data. All of these activities will, of course, be viewed as laughable when he is ported from this crude meatspace into the nanobot cloud.

This clip from Fox News shows why more reporters need to contact the experts here at TLF:

The “security expert” being interviewed in the clip, Robert Siciliano, doesn’t seem to understand what cookies do. He claims that “cookies closest cousin is spyware.” Siciliano also implies that the Obama Administration might somehow be in league with Google to gather our private information.

I think there may be some valid concerns with cookies being implemented on certain government sites, but this sort of hyperbole only feeds into the baseless fears that already exist about technology.

I should note that Judge Andrew Napolitano provides some interesting analysis on the topic after the Siciliano interview, which is included in the clip.

Hat tip:

My comments on the new Microsoft/Yahoo ad deal appears below. Please ignore the date.

From the Portland Press Herald:

Wanted: 250 Maine drivers willing to let a stranger put a black box under their dashboard.

The reward: $895 and the opportunity to speak their minds about the highway tax experiment to a researcher.

University of Iowa researchers are seeking 250 motorists in Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties willing to have a computer tracking system installed in their cars for 10 months. The system could someday be used to tax drivers according to the number of miles they drive, rather than the amount of gasoline they consume.

This is not only gets the award for most Orwellian government program of the week, but also the irony in incentives bonus prize. The new tax is meant to make up for the loss in gas revenue from more fuel efficient cars and folks using less gas during the recession. In doing so, this black-box tax would essentially be punishing motorists for driving more efficient cars, which is supposed to be a goal of the gas tax (other than raising revenue).

Bottom line: If you need more money for highways, build more tolls or raise the gas tax, don’t track your citizens.

Greg Elin (@gregelin) of the Sunlight Foundation schools you on government trasparency in under 5 minutes:

Over the July 4th weekend, websites in the United States and South Korea were under heavy assault.  As the New York Times reported:

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, The A.P. reported, citing officials inside and outside the American government.

The Washington Post, which was also attacked over the weekend, reported that 26 government and commercial sites were targeted in attacks that the National Intelligence Service are calling “elaborately prepared and executed at the level of a group or a state.” Officially, no one is pointing their finger at North Korea, but the targets of the attacks and other recent provocations from the North make it a very likely suspect.

But what’s truly scary isn’t who is attacking US computers, but how. The only real cost of an attack such as this one is writing an effective bit of malware that can spread itself around, compromise tens of thousands of machines, and allow an attacker to call on this army of unwilling silicon conscripts whenever it wishes.  When viewed from the hundred-billion-dollar heights of nation-state budgets, this cost is essentially zero.

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Image Courtesy of Flickr User Pieter Baert

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Pieter Baert

I’ve been reading many critiques of Wired editor Chris Anderson’s new book, Free, after first reading Malcolm Gladwell’s review in The New Yorker.  Gladwell’s piece is fantastic as it illuminates just how wrong Anderson’s central claim really is.  Anderson writes that:

In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win.

Gladwell quickly dismisses this by pointing out that YouTube, one of Anderson’s case studies, is set to lose $500 million next year.  As Gladwell puts it ” If [YouTube] were a bank, it would be eligible for TARP funds.”

But Anderson’s wrong-headedness goes beyond this one case.  Gladwell likens Anderson’s naivete about online distribution to that of Lewis Strauss, the former head of the Atomic Energy Commission, who Anderson himself quotes in Free.  Straus famously—and as Gladwell points out, quite inaccurately—predicted that “our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.”  Gladwell points out that just as Strauss failed to realize that fuel was just one of many inputs to the distribution of power, Anderson fails to realize that while the price of transistors may be plummeting at logarithmic rates, other costs associated with digital distribution remain fixed or are increasing.

Anderson’s responds to this critique in a post on that fails to answer nearly any of Gladwell’s points, but instead asked why Gladwell felt “threatened” by Anderson.  I doubt he does.

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I received a mailing (see poorly taken iPhone photo) from Comcast a few days ago and I thought it was worth talking about from a libertarian perspective.

I’m all for companies taking advantage of the digital changeover to make a little extra scratch, so long as they’re honest in doing so.  This mailer never explicitly lies, but it’s not exactly forthcoming about what the digital conversion really means and it certainly didn’t mention the possibility of buying a converter box to continue getting broadcast TV for free.

Instead, the octagenarians who occupy most of the other units in my building were met with this sort of language: Continue reading →

You hear it all the time.  People complain that they can’t get away from Facebook, Twitter, or even email—that the technology we own ends up owning us, or some similar cliche line about the digital dystopia that is consuming our humanity one bit at a time.  I can’t stand these people.

Thankfully there are people like my colleague Tyler Cowen who realize that—despite cultural reflexes that would have us do otherwise—we should embrace these new technologies as means to be more selective about what information we absorb and therefore welcome the increased volume of bytes into our lives.  In his new book Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World, he explores technology as a vehicle to help you determine what you really value, not a series of a email-powered torture devices.

To make the material even more interesting, the book uses autism as a touchstone—one the chapters is even entitled “Autistic Politics”—as autism proves to be an effective analogy when talking about ways of absorbing and processing information.

For more about the book, you can visit the site I just finished building——or pick up the book at Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, or

Google recently experienced failures of its core services — a phenomenon that quickly spawned the hashtag “googlefail” on the popular social networking platform Twitter.  These failures show that a company once thought of as the odds-on favorite for dominating the global market in all things web — the monolith of Mountain View — is looking more and more like a search-only player.

Big firms consistently fail to use their “market dominance” to take over adjacent markets, something that should give antitrust warriors in the Obama administration reason for pause.  The renewed call for tough antitrust enforcement comes at a time when Google, a poster-child for market dominance, simply can’t leverage its position at all.

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As many outlets reported last week, Disney’s ABC Enterprises has bought into Hulu, which had been a joint-venture of NBC Universal, News Corp., and investor Providence Equity Partners.  Like other large media platforms before it, Hulu should brace for the possible antitrust implications of its increasing number of content deals—many of them exclusive, at least as it applies to online streaming video—especially considering the Obama’s administration’s stance on antitrust policy.

Many media commentators are already using the kind of language we associate with past media antitrust cases.  Nate Anderson of ArsTechnica predicted Hulu’s forthcoming “lock” on the market saying:

The Disney deal makes it far more plausible that Hulu—mocked when it launched only last year for its name and its business plan—will dominate online streaming of premium content.

Caroline McCarthy of CNET pointed out that the Disney deal has Hulu fraternizing with prior antitrust targets:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is Disney’s single biggest shareholder, having sold animation studio Pixar to the company in 2006.

McCarthy makes an apt point as Hulu is looking more and more like the iTunes of television, an honor which Mr. Jobs likely hoped would have gone to iTunes itself.

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