Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2004 / 18 Shevat, 5764
Young innovators changing the rules
These days, some of the planet's most dangerous revolutionaries are found in business magazines.
They're young, brilliant and creatively destructive Swedes, like the two computer outlaws on Fortune's Feb. 16 cover who are in the process of destroying the $300 billion telecommunications world as we know it.
Or they are subversive Brits such as entrepreneur Geoffrey Guy, the owner of a British biotechnology outfit featured in Fast Company that's developing dozens of medical compounds made of cannabis sativa -- pot to us laypersons -- he hopes will make his firm the Eli Lily of medical marijuana.
Or they are saintly revolutionaries of capitalism such as Hernando de Soto, the Peruvian economist who Forbes editor in chief Steve Forbes reports is using modern property-rights law to transform Egypt into "a wealth-creating, wealth-distributing dynamo" that someday will resemble Ireland or Hong Kong.
The stars of Fortune's exclusive cover story are Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstromm. You've never heard of them, but your teenagers almost certainly use their controversial invention Kazaa, the music-file-sharing program.
The most-downloaded software program in the world, with 315 million copies residing in PCs from Dormont to Shanghai, Kazaa made the pair two of the music business' most-hated enemies.
Friis and Zennstromm still are involved in legal troubles over Kazaa. But they already have tossed a second A-bomb at the establishment: a new software program called Skype that lets any PC talk to any other PC anywhere in the world -- as clearly as Ma Bell and for free.
How they did it, how Skype works and why it'll change the voice communications world forever are explained well by Daniel Roth, who tracked the duo down at their secret corporate headquarters in Estonia, where they hide from U.S. music lawyers.
As for the British medical-marijuana magnate, Mr. Guy, his company GW Pharmaceuticals is scientifically breeding marijuana for serious medical purposes in a giant greenhouse in Britain.
With the OK of his government, GW also is conducting clinical tests on thousands of people suffering from multiple sclerosis or chronic pain. As Fast Company's Bill Breen tells it, Guy already has signed a deal with Bayer Healthcare AG to market something called Sativa.
You don't smoke Sativa, Cheech. It's a cannabis-laced oral spray for treating severe neuropathic pain and MS symptoms. It's just the first of many products that GW soon will begin peddling in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and other civilized lands where government drug policies aren't as puritanical, prohibitionist or harmful to society as ours.
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald