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Foreigners may not speak English, advises US tech guru

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NASA is hoping that clever robots may be able to repair its aging Hubble telescope, but can they do they same for another cherished piece of ancient deep space hardware? We're referring to the patron saint of California's techno-utopians Esther Dyson, who from her privileged orbit somewhere over Planet Earth, has detected new and important signals for US entrepreneurs to heed.

She's discovered that people in foreign countries might not speak English. So if you're writing software for these countries, translations may be necessary. There are more dramatic revelations to follow:

"They have a different time zone in some of these places," says Esther, in a showcase video interview at CNET - which has taken over maintenance of the orbiter.

Excellent advice, you'll agree: although if you're in possession of a Babelfish or, like Esther, can punch holes in the space-time continuum at will, you need not be concerned by such practicalities. Although CNET editor Dan Farber manages, quite heroically, to look interested in the wisdom of his company's latest acquisition, the banality of Esther's insight won't surprise long-time astronomy fans.

Reviewers of Esther's dot.com-era tome Release 2.0 on Amazon.com report that the book is "a regurgitation of old ideas using worn out and obvious examples", is "very shallow" and "fifth-grade"; that the author appears to be "self-centered", "self-satisfied" and "pompous"; and the book is "Best used as a couch support". And that's just some of the kinder comments.

It's wrong to wish on space hardware

Esther's true purpose amongst us is revealed later in the interview, where she boasts that "I've never met a government that could pick winners" and advises regulators to get right out of town. Of course you don't need to be a genius to see that government makes a lousy businessman, which is why governments don't even try to anymore. But government can fund technology projects that are both hugely useful (TGV) and aesthetically beautiful (Concorde). Japan, Germany and now the People's Republic of China have proved that judiciously directed public investment provides a welcome alternative to the bulimic US model of private investment: huge splurges followed by copious vomiting. And only a churl would point out that of the last three technology upturns in Esther's old launch pad of Silicon Valley, two (the 1980s and the current modest revival) have been stoked by government defense spending, and the one in between was the result of exploiting a publically funded defense project: the Internet.

Phsaw.

We'd love to bring you further installments, and we'd even promise to read Esther Dyson so you don't have to, if only her banalities, even in twenty minute bursts, didn't take such a toll on the human spirit. ®

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