Featured Post

What's up with WATT, Pt I (or "What's Wrong with Tech Journalism?")

It's been a while since I covered Energous (whose ticker symbol is WATT . Other posts are here , here , here , here , here , here , and...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Scrappy Dog


A genius/founder/media-darling/CEO took to the stage at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday to talk about how the massive negative publicity her company had garnered, the growing list of scientific luminaries questioning the viability and safety of her company's technology based on well understood and proven physics, and the lack of a single public demonstration or validation point despite years of promises, was proof she is right after all! And for once, this isn't Elizabeth Holmes, but Meredith Perry of uBeam.

"If an idea is polarizing, it might just mean that you're on the right track." Perry proclaims in a new article (signup needed). 

Or some may say it might just mean that you are utterly wrong and those who have spent their lives working on this type of thing really do know better. After all, isn't that what "polarizing" means?

Here's the definition of "polarizing":

 to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups

and also

 to cause (something) to have positive and negative charges

There aren't groups here. There is a single person, Meredith Perry, who stands up in public and proclaims this will happen and is viable. Yes she has raised money, and "used 30 of the world's leading ultrasonic engineers, physicists, and electrical engineers", but we never hear them answering the questions. It's a single voice. Sticking with the "polarity" theme, let's call that the negative side. 

On the positive side, you have multiple people with decades of experience in ultrasound devices, electronics, and safety independently presenting well founded data saying (effectively) "While in theory it may be possible in limited cases, the safety, efficiency, and economics of it mean it is not even remotely practical.".

So here's the 'polarization':

  • Negative - one person with no training in a highly complex technical field, making extraordinary claims, with nothing but their word that it works made to the public
  • Positive - a wide array of people from multiple industries, academia, and location, with hundreds of years' relevant experience between them, with no personal financial stake in the outcome, presenting well researched information that there are major concerns and questions

It's another example of lazy journalism. There is a person, and then a group. One has infinite perseverance, one has publicly presented, well researched data. This is not polarization - this is Homer Simpson vs Drederick Tatum,  They are not equal. Journalists - just because it goes beyond the complexity of 2+2=4, stop trying to present it as an even "He said, she said" fight when the preponderance of scientific evidence is on one side.

And now she speaks for the poor, downtrodden, unrecognized geniuses out there that experts get together in their smoke filled back rooms to oppress:

"How many brilliant, game-changing ideas out there thought up by laypeople, teenagers, store clerks have been squashed by experts that said, 'That can't work'?" 

The 'oppressed' thing may work when you're fresh out of college, it gets old 7 years and $25,000,000 later.

You know, we all love the idea of an underdog who's a scrappy little fighter and in the end proves the big dog wrong. It makes for a great film. But here in the real world, most of the time that scrappy little dog is just plain wrong.

3 comments:

  1. I like everything I've been reading that you've posted so far. Going to read more.

    But I have 2 questions: Why did you ever work there then? And what has changed for you since working there until you decided to leave?

    I think this would help us better understand, and not just look at it as 2 sides of a story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like everything I've been reading that you've posted so far. Going to read more.

    But I have 2 questions: Why did you ever work there then? And what has changed for you since working there until you decided to leave?

    I think this would help us better understand, and not just look at it as 2 sides of a story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete