As I Clearly Stated...Loser

Back story

2 min read

When accused of inconsistency, the British economist John Maynard Keynes is supposed to have responded, ”When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

It’s a fallback position for every politician, publicist, and pundit, says Senior Editor Philip E. Ross [above], who now invokes it to explain his own change of position on Nantero. He’s called the Woburn, Mass., company a winner three times over five years, for three magazines, including this one. This month, though, he places it in the unfortunate second half of IEEE Spectrum’s ”Winners and Losers” list.

In 2002, writing in Red Herring magazine, Ross extolled Nantero’s idea of using carbon nanotubes to store data permanently, as flash memory does, while packing in far more data and accessing it far faster. He quoted the company as saying it would have a commercial prototype within ”one to two years.” Sure, Ross also quoted skeptics, but only in the ”to be sure” paragraph that generally follows a long passage arguing in the opposing direction.

Two years later, in another science magazine, Ross lauded Nantero for finally setting up a production line for its nanotube chip. He also wrote up the company at greater length for Spectrum [see ”10 Tech Companies for the Next 10 Years,” November 2004], saying that ”these little tubes could turn out to be very big indeed.”

He notes that Nantero’s technology still seems as ingenious as it ever did. Rather than specify the structure and placement of particu­lar tubes—a problem nobody has come close to solving—the com­pany’s device averages the electronic properties of many tubes.

So, what change does Ross cite to justify his change of mind? ”The passage of time,” he responds. ”It has been six years since Nantero started saying its chip would be out in just another year or two, and I just don’t believe it anymore.”

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