John's RSS feed

John Naughton

For John Naughton's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

A lost year for new technology? Look beyond 2013's gadgets

Jan 9, 2014

A lost year for new technology? Look beyond 2013's gadgets

Writing the other day in Quartz, an admirable sister publication of The Atlantic magazine, the experienced technology watcher Christopher Mims struck a gloomy note. Under the headline "2013 was a lost year for tech," he lamented that "all in, 2013 was an embarrassment for ...

Jan 2, 2014

Google's drive into robotics should concern us all

Over the past year, Google has bought eight robotics companies. Its most recent acquisition is an outfit called Boston Dynamics, which makes the nearest thing to a mechanical mule that you are ever likely to see. It's called Big Dog and it walks, runs, ...

Dec 24, 2013

Even our Facebook 'grunts' could be monetized

As Mark Twain observed: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." And that was a long time before the Web. Which brings us to a meme that was propagating last week though social media. Its ...

Dec 17, 2013

Why do governments make such a mess of IT?

This is a tale of two cities — Washington and London — and of the governments that rule from them. What links the pair is the puzzling failure of said governments to manage two vital IT projects. In both cases, the projects are critically ...

Dec 10, 2013

Startups now have it easy thanks to 'incubators.'

One of my favourite books is John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Great Crash, 1929," which, with John Maynard Keynes' "The Economic Consequences of the Peace," is a great example of how an expert can write elegantly about something that is intrinsically complex. Galbraith wrote the ...

Dec 3, 2013

Why the NSA has landed us all in another nice mess

Fans of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy will fondly remember Oliver's complaint to Stanley: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" In a future remake, Hardy will be played by Barack Obama, suitably enhanced with a toothbrush moustache, while Keith Alexander, currently ...

Nov 26, 2013

What's Twitter's real value?

A national economy is an unimaginably complex system. And yet we compress all its complexity into a single measure, and then focus obsessively on that. If you want a metaphor for this, think of King Kong spending most of his time staring at ...

Nov 19, 2013

Church of Apple tests the faith of its flock

Someone once said that one of the advantages of religion is that it offers security in return for obedience. This point was not lost on the late Steve Jobs, the cofounder, savior and high priest of Apple. And it led Italian semiotician, philosopher and ...

Nov 5, 2013

Why the Obamacare website was doomed

One of the most dispiriting spectacles of the last month has been the botched launch of, the website created to implement President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare reforms. Obamacare had a desperately turbulent passage through Congress and survived various wrecking attempts by the Tea ...