MIT System Design and Management – Design Challenge #1

One years is passed since I started my master degree in System Design and Management at MIT. Back in August 2016, I attended the program bootcamp: an intense two-weeks of classes and project work. This period included two so called design challenges: the first was technical and the second one of social nature.

Here is the video of the first design challenge that our team prepared for the closing ceremony.  What a precious memory! Enjoy!

Reaching the end of the road. Or not?

In an ambitious hardware development project, it is very common to achieve a situation when the end of the road seems to be at reach: you went all the way through a challenging design phase, and you prototyped a few concepts that you iteratively improved until reaching a good confidence level that all initial requirement can be fulfilled. The project manager at this point has already filled the Gantt chart bar to a comfortable  90%, and already anticipate that tiny shot of dopamine that fires in his brain upon marking the task as “Done“. But here is where the wise engineer cools down the mounting enthusiasm:

“Yeah, we do see the end of the road…but perhaps there is a river in between”.

I heard that in a meeting today, and it struck me by lightning. For once, because I  happen to be in that very situation!

It was July 2014, and I was on a off-road trip in Iceland with my father and my brother. We were driving a well equipped off-road vehicle, a Land Rover Defender with snorkel and oversized wheels: the kind of vehicle that you need to cross the mighty inlands.

iceland land rover defender
The mighty Land Rover Defender. My favourite car.

Despite Iceland is quite famous for its off-road itineraries, there are plenty of paved roads, which for a Defender’s driver are evil, as gravel roads would be for a Ferrari. So we tried to take, whenever possible, detours that would bring on gravel and muddy stretch of roads, where we could enjoy the childish fun of driving full-speed through mud pools, and crossing small ponds and and creeks.

land rover defender iceland
Crossing small creeks with the Land Rover Defender in Iceland.

In one of these outings, we drove four hours on a challenging road among lava fields and the kind of rocks that do not make good friendship with your tires. The wether was chilly and the sky covered with gray cloud, from time to time dispatching a bit of their liquid load. According to the GPS, we were approaching the end of the road: a T-connection bringing us again on the main paved road and thus, in few minutes, to our next camping destination.

Doesn’t it sound a bit like when at the end of a long engineering study, after you went all the way through troubles and obstacles (and if you are a real engineer – like a real off-road driver – had a lot of fun doing it), a solution seems to be at reach? Well…

I tell you: there was indeed a river – just few hundred meters from the main road connection. And a big one! And there ain’t any bridges for God sake!

So what do you do? Go back all the way to the starting point?

My younger brother sent to check the river depth before crossing.
My younger brother sent to check the river depth before crossing.

What’s the analog of the river in the engineering world?

Suppose you had to prototype a certain electronics subsystem. You devised concepts and selected them after careful tradeoffs. You picked up couple promising ones, and made a design, schematics, and layouts. You ordered PCBs and expensive electronics components, and spent days populating prototypes, and testing and debugging them. On the way, you had to cross several creeks and mud pools: once you solved a problem here, you opened another there. That quick and dirty prototype, was definitely not quick, but you rather became very dirty along the way.  Problems emerge wherever you would least expect them. Eventually, you end up with a 90% solution that fulfils all but one requirements. And there lies the manager’s bias: to consider that the end of the road is at reach.

When the engineer is asked by the project manager “what’s the progress”, he rightfully replies 90%. And he is right: he ended up in a local minimum of the whole solution space to the problem under investigation, which is 90% as deep as the global one. The problem is that the global minimum can be just slightly off the current spot, or miles away (like it can happen in chemistry in the optimization of complex molecular structures).

Never forget that a river may be hiding just behind the last turn and you  will avoid one of the most common project manager’s pitfalls .

That is my lesson learned for today. And if you are curious to know how it ended up with my small off-road adventure: eventually, we sent my younger brother on ahead in the freezing water of the mighty river to check the depth and the stability of the bottom. That’s what they write on the off-road driving best practices after all. There was some pretty big rock along the way. A bit of a bumpy drive, but we made it in the end. And it was definitely a lot of fun!

river crossing defender iceland
Here we are! Job done!

 

The art of contracting for agile project or product development

The trend towards agile project management poses quite some challenges when such practice has to be framed in the context of a contract with a third party.

All in all, remember that the goal of the contract is still to deliver a working product: get rid of all the waste that diverts the focus from delivering real value!

Let’s take scrum as an example (but most of the considerations below are applicable to the rest of agile methods). At first sight, its rules seem to be at odd with the typical situation of a contracted work where, simply speaking, one party defines what it needs, and the other promises to deliver it for a certain price. To some extent, scrum refuses to define beforehand the complete and detailed definition of what has to be done. Instead, it assumes that the scope of the work emerges fully only through the recursive application of a certain set of rules and habits typical of the specific framework applied. The same rules and habits allow to gradually tackle the work and – by frequently delivering and therefore testing on the field the product increments – to ensure alignment between the planned work and the true needs of the customers.

Now, a typical lawyer would probably snigger at the ingenuous agile practitioner who asks him consultation to devise a contract that can support such a situation as I have described above. He might point out that, although in an ideal world things might happen as agile implies, in practice that is not often the case. Therefore, one has to setup a strong focus in the contract on nailing down the key elements of the prospected endeavour, and clearly defining what is the nominal path of the contract execution and all the possible deviations to it. Eventually, this may influence and distort the execution of the work to the point that agility may remain only a statement of good will rather than an actual practice.

Recently, I found a very good resource – agilecontracts.com – that helped me draft my first agile contract in the context of an early study for an hardware (subsystem) development of a mass spectrometer for space exploration. I definitely recommend going through the full material available on this website to anybody seeking practical advice on how to setup a good agile contractual framework. Not only it provides very practical advise on contracts drafting, but also it introduces quite nicely how to deal effectively with lawyers at all stages of the contractual relationship.

From the first part of the Agile Contracts Primer, I have summarized my takeaways on the topic on the little learning journal that follows, either summarizing my own reflections on the topic or extracting the most relevant statements from the text. I will come back on the topic in the future, with some more practical insight on the topic from my work experience. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic in the post comments! 😉


  1. Number one priority shall be the delivery of a successful project, NOT of a successful contract.
  2. Successful projects are not ultimately born from contracts, but from relationships based on collaboration, transparency, and trust.
  3. Law is usually behind the curve and not ahead of it, because of the very nature of how law develops. Expect to find old contract models reused and adapted to new problems.
  4. Agile Manifesto‘s third principle “customer collaboration over contract negotiation” is not a dichotomy. The manifesto goes on saying “while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more”.
  5. Collaboration shall be expressed not only in the contractual language, but also in the behaviour of the parties (including lawyers) during project execution.
  6. Beware of contract clauses that are inherently incompatible with agility. For instance, those forcing to define and sign-off all requirements before starting implementation.
  7. Astoundingly, surveys have shown that “scope and goals” has not been among the major lawyers concern in contract negotiation. Between 2002 and 2011 “scope and goals” did not make the top 10 of IACCM rankings, but it jumped surprisingly on at the 4th place in 2014, perhaps after somebody made them notice there was something wrong with it. Interestingly, “limitation of liability” has been consistently 1st priority in contract negotiation from 2002 to 2014.
  8. As a traditional saying goes: “You have a good contract when both parties are unhappy“. Beware of the lawyer that pronounce it.
  9. In case of problems, the parties have the tendency to refer to the contract and work towards local optima: in such case, try to think to the larger impacts of your choices and to be guided by the higher-level goals of the system.
  10. Measurements and incentives lead to local optimization. For example, if the legal department is rewarded on the basis of legal outcomes, there may be fewer legal issues (local optimization), but not greater project success (global optimization).
  11. If you need to refer to the contract during its execution, that is already a sign of failure.
  12. “Time spent on any item of an agenda is invesely proportional to the cost of the item – C.N.Parkinson’s Law of Triviality”; and that’s true as well for the terms that are being discussed in a contract negotiation.
  13. The frequent delivery of working product increments dramatically reduces the risk in an agile project, and consequently lowers the pressure on negotiation exhaustingly certain contractual terms (while in a traditional waterfall approach, there is usually a long delay before project deliverables, which injects fear and anxiety in the negotiation).
  14. The liability to stop the project at any iteration in an agile project (e.g., 1 month-long sprint) should imply less pressure on clauses of liability and indemnification.
  15. An agile project DOES NOT aim at building partial components of the product iteratively, bur rather it aims at building a deployable working model (with gradually more functionality) of value to the customers that can be accepted and used  at each iteration.
  16. In a sequential-development project the focus is on gathering all requirements upfront, and articulate every possible case and testing to meet the anticipated requirements. Such upfront requirements risks to be ill-conceived or lack effective engagement with real users, and after the delivery of a system that conforms to the contract, one may still need new requirements to meet the true needs.
  17. Contracts that promote or mandate sequential life cycle development increase project risk.
  18. Agile principles can protect a client from things they may not know.
  19. Agile recognizes that money may be better spent for requirements that were not recognized at the beginning.
  20. There are three general areas of concerns when drafting a contract, and an agile approach is generally better at avoiding the problems that lawyers are worried about:
    1. Risk and exposure (liability) > Agile reduces the risk because it limits both the scope of the deliverables and the extent of the payment
    2. Flexibility to allow for change > Agile allows for inevitable change
    3. Clarity regarding obligations, deliverables, and expectations > Agile focuses negotiation on the neglected area of the delivery
  21. The ongoing collaboration between customers and supplier required for an agile contract shall be enabled by a contractual construct that facilitates it without the need of frequent involvement of a lawyer.
  22. Evidence-based management research shows that incentives lead to dysfunctions such as increased gaming, and reduction of transparency and quality (see for example the great Pfeffer and Sutton book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management).
  23. Penalties connected to performance variation lead to similar problems than incentives.
  24. A successful contract models may be “share the pain  or gain” (whatever form this could take in your specific case).
  25. In scrum, definition of done obviates for any deliverable list!
  26. Involve, seek feedback, and engage early on the legal professional (as well as all other actors and stakeholders) for a true application of Agile Manifesto’s third principle.
  27. All in all, remember that the goal of the contract is still to deliver a working product: get rid of all the waste that diverts the focus from delivering real value!

George Gray

Asso99 Sailing
Sailing at the “Interlaghi” with the Asso 99 (2006)

Usually before going to bed, I have my daily dose of couple dead from the Spoon River cemetery. Today I came across George Gray’s grave; it goes like this:

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me –
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered fro meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Or restlessness and vague desire
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Great piece Edgar Lee Masters! You earned a spot on my shelf next to Leaves of Grass 😉

#neverlikegray

The Rule of 72 and the GMAT

The rule of 72 is quite important in the GMAT for the fast estimation of an investment doubling time. I am proud to discover it was an Italian mathematician, Luca Pacioli (1445-1514), a Franciscan friar, to publish it for the first time in Summa de Arithmetica (Venice, 1494. Fol. 181, n. 44).

” A voler sapere ogni quantita a tanto per 100 l’anno, in quanti anni sarà tornata doppia tra utile e capitale, tieni per regola 72, a mente, il quale sempre partirai per l’interesse, e quello che ne viene, in tanti anni sarà raddoppiato. Esempio: Quando l’interesse è a 6 per 100 l’anno, dico che si parta 72 per 6; ne vien 12, e in 12 anni sarà raddoppiato il capitale.”

A few provisions shall be mentioned about the applicability of this rule:

1. The rule of 72 applies to one-time investments: It can’t be applied if money is invested on a regular basis, such as monthly or yearly.

2. The rule of 72 assumes a constant annual return: it’s not applicable to stocks, mutual funds, or bonds with inherent variable return.

3. The rule of 72 is an approximation: the rule gives the best results for interest rates between 4% and 18%; outside this range, other approximations, e.g. 70 or 69, work better (e.g., to the limit of continuous compounding, 69 gives the best result at any rate)

Beware of the power and the limits of the Rule of 72, especially when you sit for a GMAT test session! A good source of information is the Wikipedia’s page on the Rule of 72.

Mind Maps for GMAT AWA

Here is some Mind Maps that I created while preparing for the GMAT AWA Essay. You are free to make whatever use you like of them. These maps are a collection of stuff that I found on many online resources. Please forgive me if I don’t mention the sources, but I did not keep any record.

GMAT critical reasoning AWA essay
Critical reasoning for the GMAT AWA Essay
GMAT AWA essay template
GMAT AWA essay template
GMAT essay AWA keywords
Keywords for the GMAT AWA Essays

 

Practicing 1st Paragraphs for the GMAT AWA Essay

The last thing you wanna do at the AWA GMAT Essay is to get stuck in drafting the first paragraph of the essay. Don’t undervalue the Art of a Good Start. Failing at quickly drafting the first paragraph of the essay may indeed not only put at risk the AWA part of the GMAT, but also kill your morale for the rest of the test.

A good exercise that I recommend to everybody is to read all AWA sample topics that you can find on the official guide or on the GMAT website as downloadable pdf and identify the one you feel most unfamiliar with. The take a few hours to write the starting paragraph of each of them. You don’t need to complete the whole essay. Just write down the starter and then move on on the next one.

Here are the essay I decided to practice. In some cases, along with my version of the starting paragraph I also added a version that I found online.


The following appeared in the health section of a magazine on trends and lifestyles.

 “People who use the artificial sweetener aspartame are better off consuming sugar, since aspartame can actually contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss. For example, high levels of aspartame have been shown to trigger a craving for food by depleting the brain of a chemical that registers satiety, or the sense of being full. Furthermore, studies suggest that sugars, if consumed after at least 45 minutes of continuous exercise, actually enhance the body’s ability to burn fat. Consequently, those who drink aspartame-sweetened juices after exercise will also lose this calorie-burning benefit. Thus it appears that people consuming aspartame rather than sugar are unlikely to achieve their dietary goals.”

 The argument states that people willing to lose weight are better of sugar then the artificial sweetener aspartame, because aspartame can induce weight gain by depleting the brain of chemicals associated with the sensation of satiety and sugar helps the body to burn fat after physical exercise.

However, the author of the argument relies on weak evidence and unfounded assumptions; as a result, the argument is seriously flawed. 


The following appeared in the editorial section of a local newspaper.

 “In the first four years that Montoya has served as mayor of the city of San Perdito, the population has decreased and the unemployment rate has increased. Two businesses have closed for each new business that has opened. Under Varro, who served as mayor for four years before Montoya, the unemployment rate decreased and the population increased. Clearly, the residents of San Perdito would be best served if they voted Montoya out of office and reelected Varro.”

Discuss how well reasoned… etc.

The argument the local newspaper’s editorial recommends the citizens of San Perdito to reelect former mayor Varro and vote current mayor Montoya our of office. The recommendation is based on the fact that under Varro, the unemployment rased decreased and the population increased, while opposite effect have been obtained during the last mandate of Montoya.

The argument bases its conclusion on weak evidence and unfounded assumptions; therefore, the argument is unconvincing.


The following appeared as a part of an advertisement for Adams, who is seeking reelection as governor.

“Re-elect Adams, and you will be voting for proven leadership in improving the state’s economy. Over the past year alone, seventy percent of the state’s workers have had increases in their wages, five thousand new jobs have been created, and six corporations have located their headquarters here. Most of the respondents in a recent poll said they believed that the economy is likely to continue to improve if Adams is reelected. Adams’s opponent, Zebulon, would lead our state in the wrong direction, because Zebulon disagrees with many of Adams’s economic policies.”

Discuss how well reasoned… etc.

The advertisement argues that people shall re-elect Adams as governor instead of Zebulon, because Adams has been a proven leader in improving the state economy while Zebulon, who disagrees with many of Adams’s economic policies, would lead the state in the wrong direction.

The argument, however, is based on weak evidence and unfounded assumptions; as a result, it is seriously flawed and unconvincing.


The following appeared as part of an article in the education section of a Waymarsh City newspaper.

 “Throughout the last two decades, those who earned graduate degrees found it very difficult to get jobs teaching their academic specialties at the college level. Those with graduate degrees from Waymarsh University had an especially hard time finding such jobs. But better times are coming in the next decade for all academic job seekers, including those from Waymarsh. Demographic trends indicate that an increasing number of people will be reaching college age over the next ten years; consequently, we can expect that the job market will improve dramatically for people seeking college-level teaching positions in their fields.”

The argument in the educational section of a Waymarsh City newspaper states that the job market will dramatically improved for people seeking college-level teaching positions in their fields because of positive demographic trends in the next ten years. The argument, however, relies on unfounded assumptions and fails to demonstrate a causal relationship between the evidence and the conclusion; therefore, it us unconvincing.


The following is an excerpt from a memo written by the head of a governmental department.

“Neither stronger ethics regulations nor stronger enforcement mechanisms are necessary to ensure ethical behavior by companies doing business with this department. We already have a code of ethics that companies doing business with this department are urged to abide by, and virtually all of these companies have agreed to follow it. We also know that the code is relevant to the current business environment because it was approved within the last year, and in direct response to specific violations committed by companies with which we were then working—not in abstract anticipation of potential violations, as so many such codes are.”

Discuss how well reasoned… etc.

The memo written by the head of governmental department argues that neither stronger ethic nor stronger enforcement mechanisms are necessary to ensure ethical behaviour by company doing business with his department. The first reason given is that a code of ethic and agreed to by the companies doing business is already in force. The second reason is that the code is relevant to the current business environment. Yet, the argument fails to prove that the existing code of ethic is effective in preventing future violations, thus the argument is unconvincing and seriously flawed. 


The following appeared as part of an article in the travel section of a newspaper.

“Over the past decade, the restaurant industry in the country of Spiessa has experienced unprecedented growth. This surge can be expected to continue in the coming years, fueled by recent social changes: personal incomes are rising, more leisure time is available, single-person households are more common, and people have a greater interest in gourmet food, as evidenced by a proliferation of publications on the subject.”

The article appeared within the travel section of a newspaper argues that a surge in the restaurant industry of Spiessa will continue in the coming years following a positive trend fuelled by recent social changes.

Even though the mentioned social changes, comprising increasing personal income, availability of more leisure time, higher frequency of single-person households and great interest in gourmet food, appear as reasonable factors in promoting the growth of restaurant industry, the argument relies on assumption for which there is no clear evidence. Hence, the argument is unconvincing and has several flaws.


The following appeared as part of an editorial in an industry newsletter.

“While trucking companies that deliver goods pay only a portion of highway maintenance costs and no property tax on the highways they use, railways spend billions per year maintaining and upgrading their facilities. The government should lower the railroad companies’ property taxes, since sending goods by rail is clearly a more appropriate mode of ground transportation than highway shipping. For one thing, trains consume only a third of the fuel a truck would use to carry the same load, making them a more cost-effective and environmentally sound mode of transport. Furthermore, since rail lines already exist, increases in rail traffic would not require building new lines at the expense of taxpaying citizens.”

The author of the editorial of an industry newsletter endorses a lowering of taxes for railroad companies’ property taxes, claiming that taxes should be reduced because rail is a more appropriate ground transportation that highway shipping which, in turn, is unfairly competing with railroads because trucking companies do not pay enough maintenance and property tax on the highway the use.

Even though the argument seems appealing at a first sight, the conclusion of the argument relies on unfounded assumptions based on weak evidence. Hence, the argument is seriously flawed and unconvincing.


The following appeared in a memo from the customer service division to the manager of Mammon Savings and Loan.

“We believe that improved customer service is the best way for us to differentiate ourselves from competitors and attract new customers. We can offer our customers better service by reducing waiting time in teller lines from an average of six minutes to an average of three. By opening for business at 8:30 instead of 9:00, and by remaining open for an additional hour beyond our current closing time, we will be better able to accommodate the busy schedules of our customers. These changes will enhance our bank’s image as the most customer-friendly bank in town and give us the edge over our competition.”

Discuss how well reasoned… etc.

The customers service division of Mammon Savings and Load claims that changes in the customer service will enhance the bank’s image and, consequently, give the bank an edge over its competitors. The argument assumes that reduced waiting time in teller lines and extended opening hours will meet the busy schedule of the customers which, in turn, will rate the bank as the most customer-friendly bank in town.

The conclusion of the argument, however, relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence, the argument is weak and has several flaws.


The following appeared as part of an article in a magazine on lifestyles.

“Two years ago, City L was listed 14th in an annual survey that ranks cities according to the quality of life that can be enjoyed by those living in them. This information will enable people who are moving to the state in which City L is located to confidently identify one place, at least, where schools are good, housing is affordable, people are friendly, the environment is safe, and the arts flourish.”

The argument claims that City L, which ranked 14th in a recent survey on cities’ quality of life, can be confidently identified as a place where schools are good, people are friendly, the environment is safe and arts flourish. Even though the city ranking might considered an indicator of an overall good quality of life, the argument does not provide enough evidence to support its conclusion. Moreover, it relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence, the argument is unconvincing and has several flaws.

Sample found online: The author concludes that City L has good schools, affordable housing, friendly people, flourishing arts and a safe environment. To support this claim the author cites an annual survey that ranks cities according to quality of life. Two years ago City L was listed 14th in this survey. As it stands this argument is unconvincing.


The following appeared in an article in a college departmental newsletter

“Professor Taylor of Jones University is promoting a model of foreign language instruction in which students receive ten weeks of intensive training, then go abroad to live with families for ten weeks. The superiority of the model, Professor Taylor contends, is proved by the results of a study in which foreign language tests given to students at 25 other colleges show that first-year foreign language students at Jones speak more fluently after only ten to twenty weeks in the program than do nine out of ten foreign language majors elsewhere at the time of their graduation.”

The argument supports a method of language teaching promoted by Professor Taylor of Jones University that, through a combination of intensive training and family stay abroad, purportedly gives students using this method an advantage compared with other foreign language majors elsewhere. To support its conclusion, the argument mentions the result of a study based on a foreign language test focused on speaking skills.

The argument is flawed because it relies on unsupported assumptions to reach a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence.

Sample found online: This newsletter article claims that Professor Taylor’s foreign-language program at Jones University is a model of foreign language instruction. This conclusion is based on a study in which foreign language tests were given to students at 25 other universities. The study shows that first-year language students at Jones speak more fluently after just 10 to 20 weeks in the program than do 90 percent of foreign-language majors at other colleges at graduation. Despite these impressive statistics, I am unconvinced by this argument for two reasons.


The following appeared as part of an article in the business section of a local newspaper.

“Motorcycle X has been manufactured in the United States for over 70 years. Although one foreign company has copied the motorcycle and is selling it for less, the company has failed to attract motorcycle X customers—some say because its product lacks the exceptionally loud noise made by motorcycle X. But there must be some other explanation. After all, foreign cars tend to be quieter than similar American-made cars, but they sell at least as well. Also, television advertisements for motorcycle X highlight its durability and sleek lines, not its noisiness, and the ads typically have voice-overs or rock music rather than engine-roar on the sound track.”

The article claims that a foreign company that copied the motorcycled manufactured by Motorcycle X failed to attract X’s customers for reasons that go beyond the lack of the exceptionally loud noise made by motorcycle X. The argument bases its conclusion on parallelism with the car industry and on the nature of television advertisements of motorcycle X. However, to reach its conclusion the argument relies on weak evidence and unfounded assumptions. Hence, the argument is seriously flawed and unconvincing.

Sample found online: The author rejects the claim that the loud engine noise of American-made Motorcycle X appeals to the manufacturer’s customers and explains why they are not attracted to quieter, foreign-made imitations. The author’s rejection is based on two reasons. First, the author points out that foreign cars tend to be quieter than similar American-made cars, yet they sell just as well. Secondly, the author claims that ads for Motorcycle X do not emphasize its engine noise; instead, the ads highlight its durability and sleek lines, and employ voice-overs of rock music rather than engine roar. In my view, these reasons do not establish that the quieter engines of the foreign imitations fail to account for their lack of appeal.


The following appeared as part of an article in a trade publication.

“Stronger laws are needed to protect new kinds of home-security systems from being copied and sold by imitators. With such protection, manufacturers will naturally invest in the development of new home-security products and production technologies. Without stronger laws, therefore, manufacturers will cut back on investment. From this will follow a corresponding decline not only in product quality and marketability, but also in production efficiency, and thus ultimately a loss of manufacturing jobs in the industry.”

The argument supports the introduction of stronger laws to protect new kinds of home-security systems from being copied and sold by imitators. The first reason given in support of the conclusion is that is that such protection will foster investment in technology development, thus keeping a high product quality and marketability and, as a result, a solid base of manufacturing jobs in this industry. Despite the arguments seems sound at a first sight, a deeper analysis shows that it relies on weak evidence to support its assumptions. Hence, the argument is flawed and unconvincing.