With a caffeine-free Diet Coke and a cappuccino by his side, Nathan Myhrvold entered the “lion’s den” today — a.k.a. Slashdot — and tried to persuade the site’s denizens that he’s one of them … at least to an extent.
“The fact is that I have more in common with you guys on /. than you might think,” wrote the Intellectual Ventures leader and former Microsoft technology chief in a Q&A with the site’s readers. “This is a community populated by engineers and technologists, not Luddites. You love great ideas. So do I. We may differ on the *economic value* of those great ideas, but I think this group debates innovation with the same passion and rigor that I do.”
Myhrvold is a frequent target of criticism on Slashdot and other sites for his company’s vast patent holdings, and its efforts to win licensing fees from companies that Intellectual Ventures believes to be violating those patents.
Asked if the patent system is broken, Myhrvold said no, but acknowledged that it isn’t perfect. He wrote, “Within computer technology, the system of granting patents works reasonably well. The system of getting an inventor paid isn’t that great because historically speaking giant technology companies steal a lot of inventions and don’t pay for them.
He continued, “This is changing somewhat because big tech companies like Microsoft and Apple are now enforcing patents as a part of their business strategy, but there is still a strong segment of the tech industry that doesn’t want to pay inventors.
“The ideal system would be a meritocracy where inventors would get paid for their work. That is what makes the incentive system work. Failing to pay hurts the effectiveness of the system overall.”
Other topics addressed during the Q&A ranged from flying cars to metamaterials and Myhrvold’s advice for blending wine. Overall, an informative and at times entertaining exercise. Read Myhrvold’s advance answers here, and his live Q&A here.