The Redirect

Todd Bishop over at GeekWire scored an interview with the infamous, Nathan Myhrvold and it is a doozy of a post. In the post Myhrvold has two central themes that he redirects every question Bishop asks to:

  1. No one else in technology is doing what Myhrvold deems to be “good”.
  2. Most all technology is just a pile of toys for what he calls the “rich-world”.

The statements from Myhrvold range from ridiculous to downright insane babbling.

Let’s take this answer from Myhrvold responding to a quasi-question about the naming of his new position, “VP for Global Good”:

You know, I was at a conference recently where someone said, “Well, do you feel good about what you’re doing?” I turned to this person who is an entrepreneur at a prominent social networking website, and I said, “OK, fine. You’re about people sending little messages to each other and having fun on a social network. How big is your malaria project?”

First, he didn’t answer the question he was asked, typical of someone who knows others won’t like the answer. Second, let’s assume he is talking about Twitter — what Myhrvold is actually missing is just how much good Twitter is doing. Twitter gives a global voice to the oppressed in countries like, for example, Egypt. It is a powerful tool — just because it doesn’t cure malaria, doesn’t mean that there is no “good”, unless I guess your name is Nathan Myhrvold.

Every answer Myhrvold gives is the same load of bullshit, so I will just quote one last response, in its entirety (you should read the entire interview):

Q:What about just being more transparent about your different dealings with patents and all the holding companies and actually making sure that if you have a patent, it’s being used for an actual product and not just squatting on something?

First, this is a fantastic question — basically a nice way of asking: “why not stop being a patent troll?”. Love it. Myhrvold’s non-response:

(Laughs.) Well, it’s another question that is like, “When are you going to stop beating your wife, Todd? That’s what we all really want to know.” …

No, he really said that. Is he implying we shouldn’t tell people to stop beating their wife?1

Many, many companies that are involved with patents have very good business reason to structure their things through a series of patent holding companies, including virtually any technology company you could name does things entirely analagous to what we do. 100 percent.

Translation: “Everyone does it, mom said it’s ok.”

In terms of transparency, all patents are transparent. What you’re really supposed to do is see if you’re infringing anybody’s patent. So what somebody says, why don’t you tell me which patents you have, Nathan, so I can avoid them, you’re supposed to be avoiding all of them! You’re saying, Nathan, I’d like to be honest with you but cheat everybody else. What’s up with that?

Actually, that wasn’t the question. The question wasn’t: “why not be transparent with your patents”, but rather: why hide behind 50 shell companies and not cop to the fact that you sue the shit out of others that even look at a patent you own. That’s the question.

The truth of the matter is that big technology companies use patents as a strategic tool. You see Microsoft and Apple and Samsung and Yahoo and Facebook, you name it, they are using patents as a strategic tool. And they use every trick in the book when it comes to doing that for themselves. But there’s a set of folks, including some of those same companies, that quite hypocritically don’t want other people collecting any money from them on patents. It’s this very funny thing, “My patents are holy and great, and all of the ways I structure and hide my patents, that’s wonderfulness. But Intellectual Ventures, we’re upset with them because they might actually make us pay for some of the inventions we’ve made billions of dollars on without paying. Gosh it sure is more fun to get ‘em for free!” …

That’s a great redirect by Myhrvold. Basically instead of answering anything close to the question he dropped Apple’s name and made you think that what Intellectual Ventures does is basically the same as what Apple does. Which isn’t true. But, hey, he didn’t have to answer the question this way.

The only honest answer was the one about Todd beating his wife — which is basically Myhrvold’s way of saying: fuck off. Well, that’s how I read it.


  1. I get the reference, still an absurd answer. 

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
4 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Todd Bishop over at GeekWire scored an interview with the infamous, Nathan Myhrvold and it is a doozy of a post. In the post Myhrvold has two central themes that he redirects every question Bishop asks to: No one else in technology is doing what Myhrvold deems to be “good”. Most all technology is just […]