Friday, March 31, 2017

"In Waymo v. Uber, honing the craft of litigation gamesmanship" (GOOG)

I was going to put something together on Anthony Levandowski's use of the 5th amendment in a civil matter and some of the implications of doing so but didn't get to it. In the meantime here is a look at some high-buck lawyering and tactics of litigators.

Alison Frankel writing at Reuters, Wednesday March 29:
You know a case is momentous when a seemingly routine proposed briefing schedule turns into a hot dispute. Waymo’s patent and trade secrets suit accusing Uber of hijacking its technology for driverless cars is only five weeks old, but lawyers for both sides are already deep in litigation chess games.

On Monday, Uber’s lawyers at Morrison & Foerster and Boies Schiller & Flexner filed a motion to compel arbitration of Waymo’s trade secrets and California unfair competition claims. The motion claimed Waymo’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan are trying to get away with a bit of litigation trickery.

According to Uber, the crux of Waymo’s case, filed in federal court in San Francisco, is that engineer Anthony Levandowski, who led Waymo’s self-driving tech team for years, downloaded more than 14,000 sensitive files before he left the company to start up his own self-driving venture, which was later acquired by Uber.

Levandowski, Uber said, signed two different employment contracts during his nine-year stint at Google and Waymo, both of which are subsidiaries of Alphabet. The agreements contained provisions requiring the engineer to arbitrate disputes with the company.

Uber’s lawyers argued that because Waymo is accusing Uber of benefiting from Levandowski’s supposed violation of his employment contract, Levandowski’s arbitration clause applies.
Uber’s brief cited cases to back its argument, which is based on the legal principle of equitable estoppel.

In the closest parallel to the Waymo case, a federal judge in San Jose ordered the tech company Torbit to arbitrate its case against a fired software developer who allegedly misused Torbit trade secrets when he started his own company, Datanyze.

Datanyze wasn’t subject to the employment agreement between Torbit and the developer, but the judge ruled the claims against the company were intertwined with allegations against the former employee.

But Waymo, unlike Torbit in the Datanyze case, did not name its former employee as a defendant. It sued only Uber, not Levandowski, the former Waymo engineer who supposedly misappropriated Waymo data and brought it to his new employers at Uber.

Uber’s motion called that elision a deliberate attempt to get around precedent requiring Waymo to go to arbitration. “Despite the myriad allegations about Levandowski’s serious misconduct while a Waymo employee, Waymo omits him as a named defendant,” Uber’s motion said. “Waymo’s purpose for proceeding in this curious manner seems clear: through artful pleading, it hopes to avoid arbitrating the misappropriation … claims at all costs.”

Waymo, meanwhile, contends there is something fishy about the timing of Uber’s motion to compel arbitration. Uber first suggested at a hearing on March 16 that it would try to force Waymo into arbitration instead of litigating in federal court.

On March 22, according to Waymo, Uber lawyer Arturo Gonzalez of MoFo said in an email to a Waymo lawyer that the motion would be filed the following day. Instead, Uber waited until three days later to file its motion.

The timing is significant because the judge overseeing the litigation, U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco, has scheduled a May 4 hearing on Waymo’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block Uber from using supposedly misappropriated information.

The judge told both sides at the March 16 hearing that he didn’t want to go to the trouble of a preliminary injunction hearing if the case is going to end up in arbitration....

USDA Prospective Plantings Report: Corn Cedes Ground (literally) To Soybeans, Beans Knocked Down

Not that the market was blindsided. As we noted yesterday:
...We're not looking for those kinds of fireworks although there may be some small upside surprises in the Soybeans/Corn acreage ratio....
And if we saw it I'm pretty sure other folks did as well. At today's lows beans were only down a couple percent:

The counter-move in corn was about the same magnitude, albeit with wilder initial oscillations until the 'puters figured out what they were reading:

From AgWeb;

2017 Prospective Plantings: Corn Acreage Down 4%, Soybeans Up 7%

Corn Planted Acreage Down 4 Percent from 2016

Soybean Acreage Up 7 Percent

All Wheat Acreage Down 8 Percent

All Cotton Acreage Up 21 Percent

Corn planted area for all purposes in 2017 is estimated at 90.0 million acres, down 4 percent or 4.0 million acres from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage is expected to be down or unchanged in 38 of the 48 estimating States.

Soybean planted area for 2017 is estimated at a record high 89.5 million acres, up 7 percent from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage intentions are up or unchanged in 27 of the 31 estimating States.

All wheat planted area for 2017 is estimated at 46.1 million acres, down 8 percent from 2016. This represents the lowest total planted area for the United States since records began in 1919. The 2017 winter wheat planted area, at 32.7 million acres, is down 9 percent from last year but up 1 percent from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 23.8 million acres are Hard Red Winter, 5.53 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.38 million acres are White Winter....

We'll be back with more on Intentions and with the inventory in storage  report which was issued concurrently.

China To Debut World's Largest Amphibious Aircraft, Handy For Supplying Newly-Built Islands (plus Tim Draper does a cameo)

From Reuters:
China's domestically developed AG600, the world's largest amphibious aircraft, will make its maiden flight in late May from the southern city of Zhuhai, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.
China has stepped up research on advanced military equipment as it adopts a more muscular approach to territorial disputes in places such as the busy South China Sea waterway, rattling nerves in the Asia-Pacific region and the United States.

The aircraft will take its first flight over land and then another on water in the second half of 2017, Xinhua said, citing its manufacturer, state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC).
AVIC has spent almost eight years developing the aircraft, which is roughly the size of a Boeing 737 and is designed to carry out marine rescues and battle forest fires.

The aircraft has received 17 expressions of interest so far, Xinhua added. It has a maximum flight range of 4,500 km (2, 800 miles) and a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tonnes....MORE
2800 mile range for, uh forest fires, yeah that's the ticket.

Just so the Chinese know, Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson's Tim Draper is backing a drone version of Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, which grown-up-gosling was designed to haul 750 troops and a couple tanks.

Despite some posts that could be construed as casting aspersions on Mr. Draper's sanity:
World’s Most Loyal V.C. Says Theranos Critics Are Just Haters
Silicon Valley: Venture Capitalist Tim Draper Has a Cringworthy YouTube Channel
Venture Capitalist Tim Draper Wants To Split California Into Pieces And Turn Silicon Valley Into Its Own State
"The Silicon Valley Secessionist Clarifies His Batshit Insane Plan"
We still have respect for Mr. Draper's money and Sand Hill Road power. Here's the new plane via SiliconBeat:

Picture of the Lun (Ekranoplan)

Oops, wrong plane. That's the Soviet "Lun". And yes those are rocket launchers on top of the fuselage.
Here's the right story, SiliconBeat March 28:

Richmond firm backed by VC Tim Draper plans to fly test versions of giant amphibious cargo drone over San Pablo Bay this summer

What may be a revolution in goods transport will be on show later this year, flying over San Pablo Bay north of San Francisco — if all goes according to a Richmond startup’s plan.
The 30-foot cargo drones winging over the water will be prototypes of a much bigger unmanned, amphibious aircraft that the company envisions as an important new element of global supply chains.
The intended end product for Natilus is a cargo drone the size of a jetliner that takes off and lands on water, carrying goods from port to port.

To keep down the regulatory burden, and avoid the need for infrastructure such as airports, the drones would fly over uninhabited ocean areas and below Federal Aviation Administration-controlled airspace. They’d land 12 miles from a port and be piloted in remotely, according to the company.
Natilus claims its planned cargo drone, built using carbon fiber composites, would cost $20 million, less than a tenth of the cost of a passenger jetliner....MORE  

"Fed's Preferred Inflation Gauge Hits Target For First Time In 5 Years"

Equities not enthused by the news, instead following the rest of the world lower.
S&P off 3 points, DJIA down 41.

Lifted in toto from ZeroHedge:
Is this why the 'data dependent' Fed is suddenly so keen to hike rates?
For the first time since April 2012, The Fed's preferred inflation indicator - the so-called Personal Consumption Expenditure Deflator - has topped 2% (The Fed's mandated goal).

So unless The Dow drops by more than 3%, The Fed will keep hiking based on this 'data', no matter what the rest of the economy is doing.

What's Up In the Stans? Turkmenistan Is Going Cash Free

Lemons into lemonade.
From Eurasianet:

Turkmenistan: With Money in Short Supply, Cash-Free Seen as Answer
Turkmenistan has a plan to fix its ever-troubled domestic currency, the manat – and that plan is to dispense with cash as much as possible.

The desire to go cash-free is being spun as a nod to economic modernization, although all available evidence points to the move being motivated by a stubborn liquidity crisis that shows no sign of abating.

At a regular end-of-week government meeting, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on March 24 listened to one of his deputy prime ministers provide an update on planned improvements to the banking system.

Byashimmyrat Hojamammedov, the Cabinet’s point-man on economic affairs, reminded the president that under a decree adopted more than three years ago, state workers began in January 2016 to receive their salaries on their bank cards. Pensions, disability allowances, benefits and student stipends are likewise paid onto cards. Foreign companies based in Turkmenistan were also required to pay local staff that way – exclusively in manat – from the start of 2016.

The 2013 decree stipulated that in line with this measure, shops and businesses in the service sector should install the equipment required to process payments with those cards. By all appearances, this side of things has been slow.

Hojamammedov said work is now under way to broaden the scope for cashless transactions....MORE
Here's Eurasianet's front page.  And their beat:

Natural Gas: EIA Weekly Supply/Demand Report

As noted at $3.1450 on Monday:
 "If (big if) natty can get through the little gap at $3.20 there's not much technically to stop it up to the bottom of the big gap at $3.80, with $3.60 a minimum target."
Here's the action thus far:

$3.2280 up 0.0370 today and grinding higher.

From the Energy Information Administration:

for week ending March 29, 2017   |  Release date:  March 30, 2017   |  Next release:  April 6, 2017 

In the News:
Thirteen gigawatts of natural gas-fired power generating capacity to be added in 2017
In 2017, 13 gigawatts (GW) of natural gas-fired generating capacity is scheduled to come online in the United States, adding to total end-of-2016 natural gas-fired capacity of 431 GW. More than 90% of these capacity additions are coming from combined-cycle power plants, which offer improved efficiency over simple-cycle combustion turbines or steam turbines alone. So far in 2017, two combined-cycle facilities—over 1 GW in total—have been completed and put into service:
  • In a March 14 press release, Competitive Power Ventures announced that the St. Charles Energy Center in Charles County, Maryland, began commercial operations. The new facility can generate 725 megawatts (MW) of power using two gas turbines (205 MW each) and one steam turbine (316 MW).
  • The Polk Power Station near Tampa, Florida, completed a 460 MW expansion on January 16, converting four natural gas-fired combustion turbines into a combined-cycle unit.
The two largest combined-cycle power plants to be completed in 2017 are scheduled to be in service ahead of peak summer demand:
  • The 1100 MW Paradise combined-cycle plant in Drakesboro, Kentucky, is expected to be completed in April and will replace two of the three older Paradise Fossil coal-fired units.
  • The 1000 MW Wildcat Point combined-cycle generating facility in Cecil County, Maryland, is expected to be in service by June 2017. The facility is adjacent to the Rock Springs Generation Facility, a 672 MW natural gas peaking facility.
Total planned retirements of natural gas-fired generating capacity for 2017 are less than 2 GW, with 1.7 GW coming from older steam turbines. In 2016, 8.9 GW of natural gas-fired generating capacity was added, and 4.3 GW was retired (4.1 GW steam turbine), with a net gain of 4.6 GW.
The amount of natural gas consumed for electricity generation has generally increased year over year, while total U.S. net generation across all fuels has remained relatively flat. However, in the fourth quarter 2016, consumption decreased below 2015 levels for the same period as natural gas prices for electricity generators rose. According to the Short Term Energy Outlook, EIA expects the share of U.S. electricity generation from natural gas to decrease from an average of 34% in 2016 to 32% in 2017 because of an expected 23% increase in the average annual natural gas price for electric generators. In 2018, the natural gas share of generation is expected to rise to 33%....
... Overview:

(For the Week Ending Wednesday, March 29, 2017)
  • Natural gas spot prices were mixed this report week (Wednesday, March 22 to Wednesday, March 29). The Henry Hub spot price rose from $2.98 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) last Wednesday to $3.03/MMBtu yesterday.
  • At the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex), the April 2017 contract expired yesterday at $3.175/MMBtu. The May 2017 contract price increased to $3.231/MMBtu, up 16¢ Wednesday to Wednesday.
  • Net withdrawals from working gas totaled 43 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ending March 24. Working natural gas stocks are 2,049 Bcf, which is 17% less than the year-ago level and 14% greater than the five-year (2012–16) average for this week....

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Juncker threatens to promote Ohio independence after Trump’s Brexit backing"

Go home Jean-Claude, you're drunk.

Not the cutesy-wootsy meme-like "Go home, you're drunk."

I'm talking full-blown, end-stage, Wernicke-Korsakoff, wet-brain, reverse-tolerance, catch-a-buzz-on-a-pint, dipsomaniacal, drunk.
(whew, that's a lot of hyphens)

From Politico:
“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas,
” Jean-Claude Juncker said of Trump | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Commission president also says EU defense efforts ‘like a chicken coop.’
VALLETTA, Malta — European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday he would promote the independence of U.S. states if Donald Trump continues to encourage EU countries to follow the U.K.’s example and leave the bloc.

At a meeting of leaders of the center-right European People’s Party in Malta, Juncker said Brexit would not be the end of the European Union — even if some people, such as Trump, would like that outcome.

In response to White House claims that Trump was “a leader on Brexit,” Juncker declared: “If that continues, I’ll call for Ohio to be independent and Texas to leave the United States.”...MORE
Earlier he said something about bees:
I’m the bees’ man: Juncker on Article 50 day 
Reminding yours truly of another honey-loving imbiber:

"PM markets: grains extend losses, ahead of 'big Friday'"

Following last year's March report our headline and intro were:

USDA Corn Reports: This Ain't Rock and Roll, This Is Genocide
I'm not sure why we have David Bowie doing the commodities report but it fits for the long corn crowd.*...
The report set up a rough day on that March 31st before the move higher, which was then crushed three months later when the June WASDE confirmed the earlier intentions report:

We're not looking for those kinds of fireworks although there may be some small upside surprises in the Soybeans/Corn acreage ratio.

From Agrimoney:
Friday will be a big day in the grain markets by anyone's definition, bringing the end of the week, the month, and the quarter, along with one of the most important data releases in the year.

"Month-end, quarter-end, and pre-report positioning dominate headlines and trading expectations," said Kim Rugel, at Benson Quinn Commodities. 

"Market lacks news and enthusiasm this morning trading lower overnight ahead of an expected bearish USDA report," Ms Rugel said. 

"Ag markets continue lower ahead of 'Big Friday'," said CRM AgriCommodities. 

Eyes on the stocks number
The US Department of Agriculture's stocks and acreage estimates will set expectations for the US summer season. 

Markets have probably factored in heavy soybean sowings, and a shift away from wheat, but perhaps more important is just how much corn, wheat, and soybeans are left 

"There probably be too much excitement around the acreage numbers, but what it could end up being [about] is quarterly stock numbers," said Steve Georgy at Allendale.
"How much do we have left over right now is the number we will be watching."

Risk-off sentiment
Mr Georgy also noted the end of month and quarter sentiments. "We're finding this risk-off mentality for grains," he said. 

This selling found no support from good wheat and soybean export sales numbers.
Weekly US soybean export sales were reported at 996,600 tonnes, beating expectations of 450,000 to 850,900 tonnes.

"Soybean sales and shipments are at record pace with USDA forecasting record large export demand for the marketing year," said Kim Rugel, at Benson Quinn Commodities.
"But with sales and demand shifting seasonally to South American, the big question with 23 weeks left in the marketing season, can shipments keep up with average weekly pace needed to meet forecast," Ms Rugel said. 

May soybean futures settled down 0.7%, at $9.62 a bushel. 

Soy/corn ratio falls
But corn export sales missed expectations, at 841,900 tonnes, where analysts estimated sales at 1.0 to 1.5m tonnes. 

May corn futures settled down 0.2%, at $3.57 ¾ a bushel. 

The closely watched ratio between new crop soybeans and corn, which farmers use as a guide to which crop will be more profitable, now stands at 2.53....MORE

Last Chg
Corn 357-4s-1-0
Soybeans 963-0s-6-0
Wheat 421-0s-4-4

Another Huge Miss From Citron and Andrew Left: Who Is This Guy? (TSLA; NVDA; MBLY; CC)

What the Hell?

At $186 the guy says Tesla is going to $100, it's at $281.
At $119 he says NVIDIA is going to $90 gets the initial drop and chickens out. Today the stock is at $108.
He says he's switching the short from NVIDIA to Mobileye with a $35 target.
17 days later MBLY agrees to be acquired by Intel at $63.54.

And here's the best of the bunch.
From Bloomberg, June 2, 2016: 

Chemours Rebounds From Selloff Sparked by Citron Short Call
  • Citron’s Left sees company as ‘bankruptcy waiting to happen’
  • Chemours on hook for liabilities in Teflon chemicals lawsuits
Chemours Co., the titanium-dioxide pigment maker spun off from DuPont Co., staged a late rally to rebound from the biggest drop in almost five months sparked by a Citron Research report calling the company “a bankruptcy waiting to happen.”

The shares closed higher by 0.7 percent at $8.86, rallying from a loss of as much as 15 percent as investors assessed the short seller’s report. A Citigroup Inc. research note suggested it contained nothing factually new.

In the spinoff, Chemours assumed DuPont’s liabilities including 3,500 lawsuits from people living near a Teflon plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, who claim they were harmed by PFOA, also known as C-8, a chemical used to make non-stick coatings and stain-resistant fabrics. DuPont was found liable for a woman’s kidney cancer in the first trial, and another began this week.
Chemours may face more than $5 billion in PFOA liabilities, 10 times as much as some analysts estimate, given the costs of medical monitoring, cleanup, compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees, Citron said in its report. The company is likely to go bankrupt within 18 months, according to the report.

“It’s serious. It’s going to zero,” Andrew Left, owner of Citron, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t care when it goes to zero but the entity goes to zero....MORE
The stock was trading at $8.50 before he announced. Ten months later it's at $37.31:

CC The Chemours Company daily Stock Chart

Seriously, what the hell?

HT that this was an Andrew Left trade: Barron's Stocks to Watch:
Chemours: What Do You Do After a Stock Quadruples? Upgrade It, Of Course!

Further Case-Deaton Plight O'White Folk (morbidity, mortality etc) and the Critics Thereof

Speaking of Irish treasures (see immediately below), the FT's David Keohane directs us to this piece.

From Noahpinion:

The blogs vs. Case-Deaton 
Anne Case and Angus Deaton have a new paper on white mortality rates. This one is getting attacked a lot more than the 2015 one, though the findings and methods are basically the same -- increased death rates for U.S. whites, especially for the uneducated. Andrew Gelman is still on the case (we'll get to his critique later), but a number of other pundits have now joined in. Thanks in part to these critiques, it's rapidly becoming conventional-wisdom in some circles that the Case-Deaton result is bunk - one person even called the paper a "bogus report" and criticized me for "falling for" it.

But most of the critics have overstated their case pretty severely here. The Case-Deaton result is not bunk - it's a real and striking finding. 
First, let's talk about the most popular critique - Malcolm Harris' post in the Pacific Standard. Josh Zumbrun of the Wall St. Journal had a good counter-takedown of this one on Twitter.

Harris notes that the Case-Deaton paper hasn't gone through peer review, but fails to note that the 2015 paper, which said basically the same thing, did go through peer review. 
Harris also takes issue with the labeling of non-college-graduates as "working class", but this is a journalistic convention - Case and Deaton themselves use the term "working class" twice in their paper, but only when talking about possible economic explanations for the mortality increase. At no point do they equate "working class" with an educational category; that is entirely something that writers and journalists (including myself) do. 
And personally speaking, who really constitutes the "working class" seems like one of those internecine Marxist debates best left in the 1970s. When I use the term to mean "people without a college degree", I specify that that's what I'm talking about. 
But Harris' central critique is that, according to him, Case and Deaton have ignored selection effects. Obviously, if more people graduate college, there's a composition effect on the ones who still don't graduate. If mortality goes down by education level, this composition effect (which Harris calls "lagged selection bias") will raise non-college mortality even if mortality rates aren't changing at all. There's a 2015 paper by John Bound et al. (which Case & Deaton cite) showing that once these selection effects are taken into account, there's "little evidence that survival probabilities declined dramatically" for the lowest education quartile. Harris heavily cites Arline Geronimus, one of Bound's co-authors, who makes a number of disparaging comments about Case & Deaton's papers.
Selection effects are very real (and John Bound is one of the best empirical economists out there). Attrition from the non-college group is important. But as Zumbrun points out, once you lump all white Americans together - which totally eliminates the education selection effect - the mortality increase remains. Just look at this graph from the 2015 paper:

HT: today's FT Alphaville Further Reading post which leads off with a link on trading donkeys in China should you be jonesing for some action and can't get off on the usual fixes.

As I noted about a critic of the first Case-Deaton paper:
Since they are dealing with a paper co-written by Angus Deaton, this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, I'm assuming SMCISS has thought long and hard about this. 
Or they're just shooting for a bit of publicity by taking on the biggest name they could think of, people do that in the social sciences....

You Can Either Buy A Round of Guinness For Four Million Of Your Pals Or You Can Buy A Guinness 'Castle' and 5000 Acres

So there I was, looking at properties accessible to Dublin, what with the Brexit and all I thought there might be a bet in there somewhere, when this pops up.
It's not a real castle despite the crenelated battlements. More of a mini-castle, but cute.

From the Irish Times:

Denis O’Brien shows interest in buying Luggala
Guinness family’s 5,000-acre estate in Co Wicklow is on the market for €28m 
Businessman Denis O’Brien is understood to be interested in buying the Luggala estate in Co Wicklow which is on the market for €28 million.

Mr O’Brien recently inspected the Guinness family-owned 5,000-acre spread near Roundwood.
Cradled in a valley between Luggala and Djouce mountains, the estate’s fairy-tale castellated white stucco house, Luggala Lodge, has a quite unique front garden water feature: Lough Tay.

The house was built originally for the French Huguenot La Touche family of Greystones, and the estate was bought by Ernest Guinness in 1937 as a wedding present for his daughter, Oonagh. 

Today, it is the occasional home to her son, arts and Irish music patron Garech Browne, and his wife, Princess Harshad Purna Devi of Morvi....MORE
The Irish Times has more on the background of the place in Jan. 25's "Guinness ancestral home in Wicklow goes on sale for €28m"

Here's the listing at Sotheby's which stresses the property is larger than it looks:
...Inside a composite sequence of elements work together to produce a coherent whole. Within a modest footprint Luggala Lodge manages to contain 3 substantial reception rooms as well as a wealth of smaller chambers on both the ground and first floors, with the latter's size not being externally apparent. There are 7 bedrooms within the main house, 4 within the guest lodge and a further 16 comprised within 7 estate lodges and cottages throughout the estate. In all the accommodation within the estate extends to some 1,802 square metres or 19,099 square feet...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Judge Alsup Wants Uber & Waymo To Teach Him How To LiDAR Prior To Self-Driving Car Case"

From Techdirt:
from the will-judge-alsup-design-his-own-lidar? dept
Judge William Alsup certainly continues to make himself known for how he handles technology-intensive cases. In techie circles, he's mostly known for presiding over the Oracle/Google Java API copyright case, and the fact that he claimed to have learned to program in Java to better understand the issues in the case (in which he originally ruled, correctly, that APIs were not subject to copyright protection, only to be overturned by an appeals court that simply couldn't understand the difference between an API and functional code). He's also been on key cases around the no fly list and is handling some Malibu Media copyright trolling cases as well.

And, last month, he was handed another big high-profile case regarding copying and Google: the big self-driving car dispute between Google's (or "Alphabet's") Waymo self-driving car company and Uber. In case you weren't following it, Waymo accused a former top employee of downloading a bunch of technical information on the LiDAR system it designed, only to then start his own self-driving car company, Otto, which was then bought up by Uber in a matter of months. Most of the lawsuit is focused on trade secrets, with a few patent claims thrown in as well.

Either way, Judge Alsup appears to want to be educated on LiDAR before the case begins. In two orders last week, Judge Alsup first asked lawyers for each side to present a basic tutorial on the basics of self-driving car technology:
For a tutorial for the judge, counsel shall please make presentations to set forth the basic technology in the public domain and prior art bearing on the trade secrets and patents at issue on the motion for provisional relief. Please do not refer to the actual systems or subsystems used by either party. (Those will be presumably covered in the motion papers.) For the tutorial, please refer only to what is in the public domain or prior art, regardless of whether or not one side or the other actually practices it. That is, in the tutorial, please do not say what the parties actually practice but if the item is in the public domain, you may reference the public domain part, even if one side or the other practices it. Make sure that all points in the tutorial reside in books, treatises, articles, public interviews, public videos, blogs, websites, seminars, presentations, Form 10-Ks, or other publicly verifiable sources. Please exchange approximate scripts beforehand so that each side may vet the other. Each side will have forty minutes on APRIL 12 AT 10:00 A.M. The public may attend the entire presentation. The judge is interested in learning the basic technology and learning publicly known art.
I'm kinda disappointed that I've got something else that I can't get out of that day so that I can't attend. Oh, and Judge Alsup also got some press attention for then asking that each side might want to send "young lawyers" for the tutorial:
This would be a good opportunity for a young lawyer to present in court.
Of course, Judge Alsup actually has a bit of a history of doing similar things. If I remember correctly, he made a similar suggestion in the Oracle/Google case as well, and people have noted he's done it before as well. The idea is that he wants to encourage firms to enable younger, less experienced lawyers to get more courtroom experience and find areas where you don't necessarily need the veteran partner, even in a high-profile clash among mutli-billion dollar behemoths.

Still, it was another request that came a few days later that has gotten more attention (first spotted by Julia Carrie Wong), in which Judge Alsup also asked each side to recommend a book for him to read about LiDAR. But not just any book. You see, Judge Alsup wants you to know that he's not a total noob when it comes to light and optics, so don't feel the need to send him "LiDAR for Dummies" or whatever:...

The story thus far, in roughly chronological (not reverse chron) order:

Google is spinning off its self-driving car program into a new company called Waymo (GOOG)
"New Patents Hint That Amazon and Google Each Have Plans to Compete with Uber" (AMZN; GOOG) 
Uber Is A Cesspit: Google's Waymo Sues Kalanick's Creation--UPDATED
Waymo Comments On Why They'r Suing Uber
"The Uber Bombshell About to Drop"
"Alphabet’s Waymo asks judge to block Uber from using self-driving car secrets" (GOOG)
Remember that time Uber's Kalanick said having autonomous was crucial to the company's very survival? (a deep dive)
And related:

Night of the Long Knives: "Google Vs. Uber in the Rush To Drive You Around, Driverless" (GOOG)
Uber Bids for Nokia Maps Service to Lessen Google Reliance
"Why Uber Has To Start Using Self-Driving Cars"
Uber Throws Tesla Under the Autonomous Bus
Uber to Buy Self-Driving-Truck Company Otto
"Google’s Car People Diaspora" (GOOG)   

Best Court Filing This Week: Libel Case Against BuzzFeed Edition

From the


BUZZFEED, INC. and BEN SMITH Defendants.

Case No. 0:17-cv-60426-UU

In a somewhat remarkable Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiffs Buzzfeed, Inc. (“Buzzfeed”) and Ben Smith (“Mr. Smith”) intimate that their ties to Florida are so sparse that, collectively, they can barely find Florida on a map and that, as a result, the present case should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or transferred to the Southern District of New York....

That’s the title of a response (to a motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds) filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers — Evan Fray-Witzer, Valentin Gurvits, Matthew Shayefar and Brady Cobb — in Gubarev v. Buzzfeed, a libel case against Buzzfeed, brought based on the Trump dossier. Nice (and, yes, I confirmed it in the court docket; the document is real). Here’s the kitten, Exhibit 41 (is that its real name?):
From the court record.
From the court record.
Thanks to Jonathan Falk for the pointer.

Source Says BuzzFeed Is Going Public In 2018

"Expect More Deals Like Intel-Mobileye"

From Barron's Investors Soapbox:

Large strategic players are trying to get into telematics but there seems to be a steep learning curve.
Wells Fargo Securities
We recently traveled with Mark Licht. Licht is president of Licht & Associates, a strategic advisory services firm specializing in telematics, Internet of Things and location-based services.

Today there are about 100 million vehicles equipped with telematics -- 40 million of which are in the U.S. Assuming there are about 250 million vehicles in the U.S., this implies a telematics penetration of only about 16%. Of the approximately 15 million vehicles manufactured every year, only 40% are telematics-enabled. This is all on the consumer side. On the fleet side, there also exists a very long runway. Licht estimates telematics on fleets with over five vehicles, penetration is only 25%-30% depending on the segment. While average revenue per user (ARPU) in the telematics business is lower than traditional wireless service, telematics requires much less spectrum and capacity than the typical individual wireless connection. As Licht noted “3G and certainly LTE is good enough” for today’s telematics product set. That said, he did acknowledge more spectrum and capacity will be required with the increased use of WiFi hotspots, video analytics and in the future of autonomous driving.

Through its three telematics acquisitions (Hughes Telematics, Telogis and Fleetmatics), Verizon Communications (ticker: VZ) has “triple downed” on the telematics space. While it has some telematics vehicles in its portfolio, these acquisitions have put Verizon more on the services side of the telematics’ house. Licht estimates Verizon makes $30 a month per fleet connection -- over 10 times the typical Internet of Things (IoT)/machine-to-machine (M2M) ARPU. Verizon’s IoT revenue is $1 billion a year, of which telematics represents about 55%. Factoring in acquisitions, Verizon’s IoT revenue increased 60%-plus in the fourth quarter....MORE

Source Says BuzzFeed Is Going Public In 2018

From Axios:

Scoop: BuzzFeed going public in 2018
With a blinding spotlight on Snap's IPO, viral powerhouse BuzzFeed is quietly making preparations to go public in 2018, industry sources tell me. OMG!

The widely (and poorly) copied BuzzFeed, which began as a "great cat site" and now has foreign correspondents and a massive BuzzFeed Motion Pictures studio in L.A., mastered the art of sharable content and became a defining brand of the Internet age.
  • The pitch: BuzzFeed, with news and entertainment divisions, styles itself as a media-tech company with "the innovation obsessed culture and structure of a venture-backed tech company": "We are best known for exploding watermelons, The Dress, Tasty, award-winning news investigations, quizzes, and lists."
  • The strategy: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has turned down past offers from media companies, and has long planned to go public.
  • Peers: The Big Four of modern digital content companies are BuzzFeed, Vox, Vice and Group Nine Media (millennial-focused online publishers Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo and Seeker).

UPDATE: "Best Actual Court Filing This Week: Libel Case Against BuzzFeed Edition"

They grow up so fast. It seems like it was just yesterday (actually it was January 11, 2017, 12:52 pm PST) that we were posting:

Breaking--Buzzfeed Considers Itself Media--Breaking
The tweeter is a writer on media at HuffPo and adjunct professor at NYU.

I can't imagine what Andreessen Horowitz and NBC Universal are thinking about their BuzzFeed investments right now.

Maybe this will cheer them up:
Possibly also of interest:

Buzzfeed Story Generator
New Media: "BuzzFeed missed 2015 revenue targets and slashes 2016 projections"
Update--"BuzzFeed Didn't Cut Its 2016 Forecast In Half, In Fact Everything's Fine"
Take That, Buzzfeed: 17 Numbered Lists From History 
From the Public Domain Review:
1. 7 types of drunkard
From pages 52 to 60 of The Anatomy of Drunkenness (1834) by Robert Macnish
Okay, Who Sent Me the BuzzFeed SEC Form D?
Journalism: BuzzFeed Releases Internal Style Guide--Updated 
Arrrgh--Updated--Journalism: BuzzFeed Releases Internal Style Guide--Updated
BuzzFeed Appears To Be Buying The Guardian, One Employee at a Time
Study Showing "Fake News' Beating 'Real News'" Is Fake
"NBCUniversal Buys Big Chunks of Vox Media and BuzzFeed"
15 Cliches In Buzzfeed President's Departure Memo*
"Can Silicon Valley disrupt journalism if journalists hate being disrupted?"
The Onion Launches Clickhole to Take On BuzzFeed, Upworthy
Facebook To Decide Which News Sites Live, Which News Sites Die

"The NYTimes could be worth $19bn instead of $2bn"
Errrmmm, yes.
Should the risk-free rate go to negative 5%.

Agricultural Futures: Rabobank Has Some Thoughts On Brexit and the New Zealand Model

Over the years we've noted Rabobank seems to have a better feel for the ag stuff than most of the banks.
They're not always right but worth paying attention to.

From Agrimoney:
Article 50 could be a boon for non-EU agricultural exporters
Brexit could be good news for agricultural exporters outside the EU, if the UK government decides to prioritise low food prices, by adopting a so-called New Zealand model, the Dutch agricultural lender Rabobank said. 

But whatever the outcome of the negotiations, an increase in prices for some goods, such as fresh vegetables and olive oil, is more or less inevitable the bank said.

Still, the official launch of negotiations to leave the EU did little to disrupt UK markets on Wednesday, with the pound barely wobbling, and UK wheat prices trading both sides of unchanged.
Article 50 triggered
In a letter to EU president Donald Tusk, the British prime minister Theresa May official triggered Article 50, launching a two-year negotiation on the terms of the UK's exit.

Attention will now focus on the exact details of future economic and trade relations between the UK and the EU, whether these are an interim agreement, or a permenant trade deal. 

"Much of the current focus on how Britain will trade post-Brexit revolves around the UK continuing trade with the EU or providing additional protection to its farmers by imposing protectionist import tariffs," said Harry Smit, senior analyst at Rabobank.

"Yet in our view, a third possible scenario not being as widely discussed is the New Zealand model – essentially a 'present to the rest of world' in which it eliminates all food import tariffs, possibly as a quid pro quo for receiving more favourable terms for its key export sectors, like financial services."
Such a move could be "bad news for the EU," Mr Smit said.  Which has previously had preferential access to British buyers via the single market.

Price increases for some goods are inevitable
 But Rabobank warns that whatever deal is struck with the EU, prices for many agricultural products will increase....MORE

Marc Chandler Talks "Brexit, Europe and EU Challenges"

From Marc to Market:
Earlier today, I had the opportunity to discuss the outlook for sterling and the US dollar on Bloomberg TV with Rishaad Salamat and Haidi Lun. It is a momentous day with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty being formally triggered by UK Prime Minister May, nine months after what was, at least initially, a non-binding referendum.

European Council President Tusk is expected formally to respond for the EU before the weekend. It is not immediately clear when the negotiations will start. However, it is clear that the formal triggering of Article 50 will transfer the initiative and balance of power toward the EU from the UK. Over the 24 months, there will be plenty of posturing, negotiations, brinkmanship tactics, and blinking.

Many investors may be best served by keeping the core issue in perspective. The UK government is willing to lose access the single market in order to get more control of its borders for immigration and trade. Europe, on the other hand, just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which established the European Project. Losing a member, and an important, though not a founding member, is a significant blow to Europe, which is having its own identity crisis of sorts.

Some evolution that the UK blocked, such as European army, may go forward, but the UK's amputation will change the balance in Europe on a range of issues and alter Europe going forward. Non-EMU, EU members, have lost a voice, and these countries are mostly in eastern and central Europe and are presently strained relationships with the older Western part....MORE, including Bloomberg video.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Robots are killing jobs after all, apparently: One droid equals 5.6 workers"

One of the lessons they really try to drive home in junior analyst school is: don't say "This time is different".
But this time might actually be different and the accumulated history of technology vis-à-vis employment may not be of much use as a guide. And the stakes are pretty high.

From The Register:

So much for the utopian techno future, according to this study
Industrial robots are depressing wages and increasing unemployment, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, non-profit, non-partisan research organization in America.

Written by MIT economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, "Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets" appears only days after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin dismissed the possibility of automated systems taking jobs from people, saying, "It's not even on our radar screen."
Similar to the cosmological conundrum about whether the universe will continue expanding indefinitely or collapse upon itself, the impact of automation and AI on human employment is the subject of ongoing debate about whether automated systems will create more jobs than they destroy.
Among technology advocates, there's predictable optimism. Robert D Atkinson, president and founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, has gone so far as to place a bet through the Long Now Foundation that by June of 2025 the labor force participation rate and unemployment rate, reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, will respectively be above 60 per cent and below 7.5 per cent.

"The 'robots are killing our jobs' proponents miss the fact that automation lowers prices (or raises wages), which in turn spurs increased demand for goods and services, and hence labor," he states in his argument.

If Acemoglu and Restrepo are correct, however, that may not be a wise bet. The researchers analyzed how the increase in industrial robot usage between 1990 and 2007 affected US local labor markets.
These robots are fully autonomous machines that operate without human intervention, doing tasks that at some point in the past were done manually, such as welding, painting, product assembly, moving materials, and packaging.

There are presently somewhere between 1.5 and 1.75 million industrial robots operating around the globe, according to the International Federation of Robotics. The auto industry uses about 39 per cent of such robots, followed by the electronics industry (19 per cent), metal product manufacturing (9 per cent), and the plastics and chemicals industry (9 percent), according to the researchers.

Acemoglu and Restrepo found that in areas exposed to industrial robots, between 1990 and 2007, "both employment and wages decline in a robust and significant manner (compared to other less exposed areas)."...

If you don't have access to the NBER version linked above here are Professor Acemoglu's MIT web pages.

China's Tencent Buys a 5% Stake in Tesla (TSLA)

TSLA is up $9.42 at $279.64.

From Reuters:
China's Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) has bought a 5 percent stake in U.S. electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) for $1.78 billion, the latest investment by a Chinese internet company in the potentially lucrative market for self-driving vehicles and related services.

Tencent's investment, revealed in a U.S. regulatory filing, provides Tesla with an additional cash cushion as it prepares to launch its mass-market Model 3. Tesla's shares were up 2.9 percent at $277.03 in midday trading on Tuesday, enabling it to rival Ford Motor Co (F.N) as the second-most-valuable U.S. auto company behind General Motors Co (GM.N).

The deal expands Tencent's presence in an emerging investment sector that includes self-driving electric cars, which could enable such new modes of transportation as automated ride-sharing and delivery services, as well as ancillary services ranging from infotainment to e-commerce.

Those new technologies, and their potential to create new business models and revenue streams in the global transportation sector, have attracted billions in investment from China's three tech giants - Tencent, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) and Baidu Inc (BIDU.O).

In an investor note, Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas said on Tuesday that he "would not be surprised" to see Tencent and Tesla collaborate in the development and deployment of some of those technologies.

Founded in 1998 by entrepreneur Ma Huateng, Tencent is one of Asia's largest tech companies, best known for its WeChat mobile messaging app. With a market capitalization of about $275 billion, it is roughly six times the size of 14-year-old Tesla, whose $46 billion market cap on Tuesday matched that of 114-year-old Ford.

Tencent was an early investor in NextEV, a Shanghai-based electric vehicle startup that since has rebranded itself as Nio, with U.S. headquarters in San Jose, not far from Tesla's Palo Alto base. Tencent also has funded at least two other Chinese EV startups, including Future Mobility in Shenzhen.

In addition, Tencent has invested in Didi Chuxing, the world's second-largest ride services company behind Uber, and in Lyft, Uber's chief U.S. rival.

Baidu has invested in Nio, as well as in Uber and Velodyne, a California maker of lidar sensors for self-driving cars. Alibaba's mobility investments include Didi and Lyft....MORE

Ridezilla: Chinese Rideshare Co, Didi Chuxing Is Looking to Raise Another $6 Billion

Following up on yesterday's "Does Uber Go Bankrupt If Didi Chuxing Decides To Compete In the United States?".
From Bloomberg Gadfly, March 28:
Didi Chuxing looks set to put its shareholders in an impossible position by entertaining another round of fundraising, this time for $6 billion.

SoftBank Group Corp. would lead the investment being considered by China's largest ride-hailing company, Bloomberg's Lulu Chen reported Tuesday.

That means current shareholders may be forced to decide whether to double down on their existing investment, or watch their bets get diluted by the new money. Such a dilemma faces investors every time a startup brings out the begging bowl.

New funding is usually welcome because it means more cash to get the business through the next phase in its development, compete with rivals and move closer to profitability. It typically has the added bonus of raising the startup's valuation, which makes everyone happy.

For Didi, though, it's a little different. As the product of two competitors merging, the company has vanquished its last credible threat. From there, the path to profitability should have been smooth, limiting the amount of cash it would have to burn to get to the IPO finish line.

Except such a conclusion assumes that the underlying business model is actually viable.

The distinguishing feature this time is that a massive pool of money is knocking on the door and wanting in. With its valuation already a heady $33.8 billion, any further escalation would limit the upside for investors in a future public offering, while a flat or down round would be a terrible move....MORE
 And the Bloomberg story that came out last night (EDT): 

Didi Said to Be Weighing $6 Billion SoftBank-Backed Funding

Smart Beta: "They Can’t All Be That Smart"

Continuing our tour of some of the more interesting characteristics of the factor zoo.

From Investing Research, March 14:
Smart Beta is a label applied broadly to all factor-based investment strategies. In a recent WSJ article on Smart Beta, Yves Choueifaty, the CEO of Tobam, said “There’s a huge range of possibilities in the smart-beta world, and they can’t all be that smart.” This paper separates the factor investing landscape, gives a framework to analyze the edge of various approaches and lets you decide which factor-based strategy is worth your money.

Analysis of a factor-investing strategy should focus on two of the manager’s skills: the ability to identify specific factors that accurately generate out-performance and the manager’s technique in constructing a portfolio of stocks with those factors. Factors are not commodities, and one should know how managers are selecting stocks, but we are focusing on portfolio construction and the soundness of different approaches.

Active share can be a useful tool in this investigation. Active share by itself is not a metric that inherently identifies manager skill. Nor is it the best metric to determine the risk of the portfolio versus an active benchmark. Tracking error is a more comprehensive metric for the trailing differences in the portfolio returns and Information Ratios to understand the balance of how much active risk you are taking for active return. But active share is a very useful tool in investigating the choices managers make in building factor portfolios.

Through the lenses of active share, tracking error, and information ratios, we consider the relative merits of factor-based portfolio construction approaches: Fundamental Weighting, Smart Beta and Factor Alpha. Understanding the differences between these approaches will help you better incorporate factors into your overall portfolio.

Fundamental Weighting
Most benchmarks weigh constituents by market capitalization. Some factor investing approaches pivot away from weighting on market cap, and weighting on another fundamental factor like sales or earnings. The argument for these strategies is that weighting by market cap is not the smartest investment solution out there: the top quintile of the S&P 500 by market cap underperforms the average stock by -0.65% annualized1, and market cap weighting allocates 65% of the benchmark to those largest names.

For a comparison of fundamental weighting schemes, the table below shows the characteristics and annualized returns for weighting on Market Cap, Sales, Earnings, Book Value of Equity and Dividends. There are some benefits to the approach, for example eliminating companies with negative earnings. On average, about 8.3% of Large Stocks companies are generating negative earnings2, and avoiding those is smart. The largest benefit is an implied value-tilt to the strategy: over-weighting companies with strong earnings and average market caps creates an implicit Price/Earnings tilt. This is apparent in the characteristics table: Sales-weighting gives the cheapest on Price/Sales, Dividend-Weighted gives the highest yield, etc.

But pivoting from market cap to a fundamental factor weighting scheme does not create large risk-return benefits. Raw fundamental factors correlate highly with market cap; companies with huge revenues tend to have large market caps. As of December 31st, 2016, weighting on Earnings has a 0.85 correlation with weighting on market capitalization3. In market cap weighting, the top 25 names are 34% of the portfolio. In an earnings-weighted scheme those same 25 companies are still 34% of the portfolio, just shifting weights a bit from one name to another.

Active share shows how little fundamental weighting moves the portfolios, with active shares in the 20-30% range. Excess returns range from slightly underperforming market cap to outperforming by +72bps. The modest excess return comes with much higher active risk, and tracking errors ranging from 4.5% to 5.8%. This generates poor information ratios, the ratio of active return to active risk.

Portfolio Weight for Market Cap Weighted vs. Earnings Weighted – December 31st, 2016
Characteristics and Annualized Returns by Weighting Scheme (U.S. Large Stocks, 1963-2016)
The reason that the risk-return benefits are small is because Fundamental Weighting is an indirect allocation to a Value strategy. Value investing on ratios is identifying investment opportunities with the comparison of a fundamental factor in the context of the price you pay. Fundamental weighting is only taking half of the strategy into account, looking for large earnings but ignoring the price you’re paying for them. Some Fundamental Weighted products will be more sophisticated than simply weighting on sales, earnings, book value or dividends. But weighting on fundamental factors instead of market cap doesn’t create a significant edge.

Risk-Focused versus Return-Focused
A post by Cliff Asness at AQR suggested that Smart Beta portfolios should be minimizing active share. Smart Beta portfolios are “only about getting exposure to the desired factor or factors while taking as little other exposures as possible.” This statement cemented the idea that there is a group of Smart Beta products that are risk-focused in nature: Start with the market portfolio, identify your skill and then take only the exposure on those factors....MUCH MORE
Are Factor Investors Getting Paid to Take on Industry Risk?
Asness et al: "Contrarian Factor Timing is Deceptively Difficult"
"Investing: Cliff Asness Blasts Rob Arnott"   

And some older posts:
What a Long Strange Trip: From CAPM To Fama-French to Four (or more) Factor
Improving on the Four-factor (beta, size, value, momentum) Asset Pricing Model
2017 Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook (and testing smart beta factors)
Factors: The Problem With Small Cap Stocks (the effect probably isn't real)
It's Anomalous: "Fact, Fiction and Momentum Investing"
Rob Arnott's Research Affiliates: "Finding Smart Beta in the Factor Zoo"

"The Biggest Risk From the Dollar's Drop May Not Be What You Would Guess"

From Bloomberg, March 27:

A high-risk corner of the $5 trillion currency market has become the collateral damage of the dollar selloff.
Whipsawed by the greenback and confronted by U.S. policy confusion, carry trades were supposed to be a rare bright spot for investors who want to stay away from the world’s biggest reserve currency. Under the strategy, you borrow in low-rate alternatives such as the yen, and buy high-yielding peers like the Mexican peso, benefiting from low volatility and the emerging-market rally.
Practitioners of the carry trade are learning there’s no hiding from the dollar’s influence. Growing doubts about the outlook for U.S. policy following the failed attempt at health-care reform not only led to a weaker dollar, it also caused investors to pile into havens such as the yen and the euro -- the funding currencies carry traders sell as part of the strategy. The Japanese currency gained 2 percent against the dollar this month, while the euro rose 2.8 percent.

"The carry trade is far more important than the dollar move in the changing the currency market," said Bob Savage, chief executive officer of hedge fund CCTrack Solutions LLC in New York. "The rise in the yen may actually put the trade at risk. The dollar itself doesn’t affect the biggest FX trade out there, but the yen does."

There’s no hard evidence available in analyzing the scale of carry trades. But according to Bank of America Corp.’s flow data, buying emerging-market currencies made up the biggest long position as of last week. The data blend positioning and sentiment surveys conducted with its hedge fund and real-money clients, and publicly available futures data.

Funding Currency
Nonetheless, carry traders could still make a profit because of yield differentials or appreciation in emerging-market currencies. At a time when most investors have capitulated on the strong-dollar bet and currency funds struggle to yield any return for yet another year, the carry strategy may be the last oasis....MORE

Monday, March 27, 2017

Too Funny: Reporting On Elon Musk's New Brain Implant Company, The Nerds at Boy Genius Report...

...went with this picture and headline:

"Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI"

"Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI" UPDATED

Update: "Too Funny: Reporting On Elon Musk's New Brain Implant Company, The Nerds at Boy Genius Report..."
Original post:

About time, he's teased it enough, links after the jump.

From The Verge:

Rockets, cars, and now brain chips
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices. 

Musk has hinted at the existence of Neuralink a few times over the last six months or so. More recently, Musk told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." On Twitter, Musk has responded to inquiring fans about his progress on a so-called “neural lace,” which is sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves. 

These types of brain-computer interfaces exist today only in science fiction. In the medical realm, electrode arrays and other implants have been used to help ameliorate the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. However, very few people on the planet have complex implants placed inside their skulls, while the number of patients with very basic stimulating devices number only in the tens of thousands. This is partly because it is incredibly dangerous and invasive to operate on the human brain, and only those who have exhausted every other medical option choose to undergo such surgery as a last resort.
This has not stopped a surge in Silicon Valley interest from tech industry futurists who are interested in accelerating the advancement of these types of far-off ideas. Kernel, a startup created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson, is funding medical research out of the University of Southern California to try and enhance human cognition. With more than $100 million of Johnson’s own money — the entrepreneur sold Braintree to PayPal for around $800 million in 2013 — Kernel and its growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers are working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, eventually, making our brains faster and smarter and more wired.

These types of brain-computer interfaces exist today only in science fiction. In the medical realm, electrode arrays and other implants have been used to help ameliorate the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. However, very few people on the planet have complex implants placed inside their skulls, while the number of patients with very basic stimulating devices number only in the tens of thousands. This is partly because it is incredibly dangerous and invasive to operate on the human brain, and only those who have exhausted every other medical option choose to undergo such surgery as a last resort. 

This has not stopped a surge in Silicon Valley interest from tech industry futurists who are interested in accelerating the advancement of these types of far-off ideas. Kernel, a startup created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson, is funding medical research out of the University of Southern California to try and enhance human cognition. With more than $100 million of Johnson’s own money — the entrepreneur sold Braintree to PayPal for around $800 million in 2013 — Kernel and its growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers are working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, eventually, making our brains faster and smarter and more wired....MORE 
June 2016
Sept. 2016
In other news...
Sept. 2016
Feb. 2017
Mr. Musk is probably just pitching his "neural lace" idea, on which we are supposed to have an announcement this month.*

But what about rockets? For the asteroid mining cancer cures?