Friday, December 19, 2014

What would happen if conventional antitrust acts were applied globally, on an inter-country level, on countries such as Cuba and the USA

When seen from the perspective of antitrust law, the decades-old US embargo on Cuba - America's tiny neighbour - starts to look criminal. In the case of companies, if a monopoly or a near-monopoly engages in practices that are anti-competitive and unfair, antitrust laws attempt to stop and punish the aggressor in order to restore fair competition in the market. Applying this to countries, in the case of Cuba, a powerful neighbour abused its dominant position and, by way of embargo/sanctions, brought misery to the lives of Cubans for several decades. Located in close proximity to the USA, Cuba's fate depended and depends on its much-larger neighbour, a fact the larger neighbour exploited neatly.

Perhaps some day the world will start to question practices such as the one utilized by the USA against Cuba, and perhaps some day there will be mechanisms in place to stop the bullying of smaller nations by larger nations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NSA, et al., will likely support spying on people's conversations even inside their cars, homes, hotels, etc., based on their "finding the needle in the haystack" argument

NSA and other related entities have frequently defended their global spying operations by appealing to the argument that they need to own the haystack in order to be able to find a needle in it. It is easy to understand that several times more communication takes place offline than online, meaning thereby in real-life and without involving modern technology such as phones, emails, FB, etc. [sitting around a lunch table, talking in a restaurant, a private conversation in a room, an executive meeting in a conference room, posting a letter via postal mail, etc.].

Since NSA and its other gang members are supportive of collecting as large a haystack as possible, it is therefore logical to conclude that offline communications are also in their line of fire, even if they aren't [yet] publicly talking about it, likely because of fears over public outcry.

That doesn't mean that they won't try to record people's offline conversations in the future, whether through miniature drones covertly and silently recording vocal conversations in rooms, or through exploitation of IoT devices which are spreading all over our cars, homes, etc.

The important point to note here is that the NSA will try to monitor people's offline conversations and their overall lives too - the agency's past behaviour makes its future trajectory clear. It is up to the people of the world to defend one of their fundamental rights - the right to privacy.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Google News itself doesn't make any direct revenue - but it doesn't mean that Google News doesn't indirectly increase Google's revenue

Today Google announced that it's shutting down its Google News service in Spain, because of a new Spanish law requiring Spanish publishers to collect a charge from services such as Google News. Google's argument is that its News service doesn't make any money, and hence it is not sustainable for Google to continue the service in Spain if it has to pay a charge to Spanish publishers.

I don't agree with Google's argument.

Google News is not a charity product, and Google is not a charity organization. The reason why Google News exists is because it is a vital component of the network of Google products, even though on surface it might appear that the service is really free since Google neither charges for it nor shows ads on it.

How then does Google News earn Google something, even if a little? Three ways.

First, by feeding into Google's databases information about users' interests [tracked via both clicks on news articles and search queries entered into Google News]. It is of course difficult to accurately measure the contribution to revenue from the user information that Google News generates, but what is clear is that Google News data definitely gives positive help to Google's algorithms to better understand a user, thus improving the overall effectiveness of ads shows on various Google properties to that user.

Second, Google News improves user stickiness [retention]. Google doesn't want folks to go to Yahoo or MSN or others in order to look for news, and Google News plays its part in helping to increase retention. If there wasn't any Google News, people would flock to products such as Yahoo News, and maybe would've tried out other Yahoo products as well. Again, it is difficult to measure the precise extent to which this service contributes, but again, what is certain is that the help is positive.

Third, since Google News results frequently/sometimes appear on Google's flagship search results page, and since Google shows ads on its main search results page, it is logical to conclude that out of the total revenue earned from ads on the search results page, some contribution comes from the results from Google News. Again, it isn't straightforward to measure the exact percentage of revenue that comes from News results, but it can be stated confidently that the positive contribution exists.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The genesis of 'time value of money' is probably the limited lifespan of us humans

I studied time value of money during MBA. Till yesterday, I had accepted the existence of this as a matter of fact, as if this was another law of nature akin to Newton's laws of motion. But yesterday a small thought occurred to me - does time value of money exist because us humans have a limited lifespan? What if there existed a guy who never aged and never died? Would he too value INR 100 today more than INR 105 after a year [assuming the prevalent interest rate is 10% p.a., thus making INR 105 look like a bad deal to us mortals]? Probably not, because he would be in no hurry to get money. From his perspective, waiting one year to get INR 105 is also okay [assuming he can't take the INR 100 and invest it elsewhere to get INR 110 after a year], since he has a limitless life ahead, and he doesn't really spend any time of his life. Would time-driven interest rates even exist?

Which brings me to the money value of time. Since we all [currently] have limited lives, every second of our life has a value, and it is this money value of time which gives rise to the time value of money.

Update [21-Jun-15]: There's of course this oddity in this post, where on one hand I say that the prevalent interest rate is 10% p.a., and on the other hand I say that the immortal guy cannot invest the INR 100 anywhere to get INR 110 after a year. I need to think more about this idea when I'm free, to remove this oddity.