The renegade whose dream started the latest space race

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origins have grabbed the headlines in the space race, both of them building rockets and spacecraft.  But there is fascinating backstory on how this race and the private space industry came into existence.  It is the tale of a renegade entrepreneur, Peter Diamandis, who founded the XPRIZE foundation to incentivize the building of the rockets—in order to...

Why China won’t own next-generation manufacturing

After three decades of dramatic growth, China’s manufacturing engine has largely stalled. With rising salaries, labor unrest, environmental devastation, and intellectual property theft, China is no longer an attractive place for Western companies to move their manufacturing to. Technology has also eliminated the labor cost advantage, so companies are looking for ways to bring their high-value manufacturing...

I already live in the future — and so should you

I live in the future. I drive a Tesla electric vehicle, which controls the steering wheel on highways. My house in Menlo Park, Calif., is a “passive” home that expends minimal energy on heating or cooling. With the solar panels on my roof, my energy bills are close to zero — and that includes charging the car. My iPhone is encased in a cradle laced with electronic sensors that I can place against my...

How Apple can make money after the iPhone

Apple reported lackluster earnings on Tuesday as the company’s iPhone sales continued to slide. The numbers make it clear that the future of the consumer products behemoth is no longer in its consumer products. The fix? Apple should release a version of iOS for non-Apple devices. This suggestion will seem like heresy to the brand’s loyalists, but it may be necessary for the success of the company. Imagine...

Why Elon Musk’s crazy plans for Tesla are perfectly sane

lookus / Shutterstock.com Elon Musk recently laid out a “master plan” for where his company, Tesla Motors, is heading. The vision is undoubtedly ambitious: four new kinds of Tesla vehicles, solar initiatives, autonomous driving technologies and a ride-sharing program. Judging by the subsequent 3 percent dip in Tesla’s stock price, the markets don’t appreciate Musk’s vision or the promise of...

After the fatal Tesla crash, I still feel safe in my self-driving car

At first, the thought of letting my car drive itself seemed rather frightening. But the highway was almost empty and the lanes were clearly marked, so I took the risk and engaged the autopilot function in my new Tesla Model X. Yet I couldn’t let go of the steering wheel. I didn’t want to put my life in the hands of software. This was two weekends ago as I drove to Big Sur, Calif. The fear lasted about...

The amazing artificial intelligence we were promised is coming, finally

We have been hearing predictions for decades of a takeover of the world by artificial intelligence. In 1957, Herbert A. Simon predicted that within 10 years a digital computer would be the world’s chess champion.  That didn’t happen until 1996.  And despite Marvin Minsky’s 1970 prediction that “in from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being,”...

Theranos teaches Silicon Valley a hard lesson about accountability

By Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld and Vivek Wadhwa The Theranos saga hit another low last week when the company informed regulators that it was voiding two years of tests from its Edison blood testing devices and sending of tens-of-thousands of revised tests results to doctors. This means that thousands of patients received incorrect results and were likely given the wrong treatments. Surely the doctors and the...

Trump’s demand that Apple must make iPhones in the U.S. actually isn’t that crazy

Donald Trump has promised that “we’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.” He said this at a speech at Virginia’s Liberty University and several other events. It is very likely that he is not serious; Trump tends to say things he couldn’t possibly mean. But he did raise an intriguing question about whether Apple — and other...

How crowdfunding can help save Silicon Valley from its harebrained investors

There are fears that another Ice Age is about to hit Silicon Valley because of the implosion of its unicorns — start-ups valued at more than one billion dollars. By one estimate there were 229 such companies in January of this year. Their valuations are dropping precipitously because they were overpriced and overhyped. The fear is that venture capital will dry up and hurt the innovation ecosystem. In previous...

Why Tesla is the spark that Apple needs

Apple’s dismal earnings announcement shows why it badly needs to rethink its innovation model and leadership. Its last breakthrough innovation was the iPhone — which was released in 2007. Since then, Apple has simply been tweaking its componentry, adding faster processors and more advanced sensors, and playing with its size — making it bigger in the iPad and smaller in the Apple Watch. Chief executive...

How open science can help solve Zika and prepare us for the next pandemic

With the advent of synthetic biology and gene editing tools, there are amazing breakthroughs being made in medicine, energy and food. Within a few years, we will see cures for debilitating diseases, new biofuels, and grains that can be grown in extreme climates. We will also have many new nightmares: bioterrorism and well-meaning experiments that get out of hand. Imagine a superbug that can cure — or kill...