Today’s Links: October 2, 2012


BEN JOHNSON: “Where Does It Come From?
“[I]n 2012, finding out exactly how, where, and when something was made is more complicated than it has ever been because the production line is increasingly international and decentralized. Most of the things we make and use come cheaper, faster, and farther than ever. Consumers who want to behave responsibly for myriad reasons struggle with this, but so do companies. The problem—and its solution—can be boiled down to one thing: traceability. Traceability is basically accurate accounting in manufacturing—knowing all you can know about the components you’re working with so that you can identify problems and inefficiencies in your production line quickly and fix them before they multiply. And in a world where a company like Apple doesn’t own all the subsidiaries that make parts going into its products, accurate accounting has big implications.”

ROBERT MCMILLAN: “Why We Need a Supercomputer on the Moon
“Should we build a supercomputer on the moon? It would be a mammoth technical undertaking, but a University of Southern California graduate student thinks there’s a very good reason for doing this: It would help alleviate a coming deep-space network traffic jam that’s had NASA scientists worried for several years now.”

CHRISTOPHER MIMS: “The largest payment platform on Earth can reach 2 billion people–so why haven’t you heard of it?
“When Jana co-founder Nathan Eagle needed to connect to a cell carrier in the developing world, he’d come to meetings with a duffel bag full of cash and say that he wanted to buy airtime. For carriers who were taking on more customers than ever, but struggling with declining revenue per user, it was an irresistible sales pitch. The result, two years later, is that Jana is now the largest payment platform in the world. Eagle describes Jana as an “opt-in mobile network” that pays users to fill out consumer surveys and try products. The company has access to 100% of the users on 237 cell carriers in 101 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.”


EASIER THAN WIRETAPPING – NYPD to Boost Gang Unit Over Social Media Violence
“The New York Police Department is planning to double the size of its gang unit to 300 detectives to combat teen violence fueled by dares and insults traded on social media. […] ‘By capitalizing on the irresistible urge of these suspects to brag about their murderous exploits on Facebook, detectives used social media to draw a virtual map of their criminal activity over the last three years,’ [Commissioner Raymond] Kelly said.”

GEORGIA – Eccentric Billionaire Likely to Lead Country
“He collects rare animals, buys priceless art and professes to be a psychoanalyst. Bidzina Ivanishvili, a onetime barefoot village boy turned eccentric billionaire philanthropist, is poised to become the new leader of Georgia, a strategic South Caucasus country that lives in the shadows of giant neighbor Russia.”

BUSINESS – “Showrooming” threat under control: U.S. retail CFO survey
“Finance chiefs at dozens of U.S. retailers think their companies have so-called showrooming – the phenomenon of shoppers using brick-and-mortar stores to check out merchandise but then buy it online – under control, according to a poll released Tuesday.”