Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Save Apple!

How to save Apple. 

Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world.  In fact, under Steve Job's leadership, Apple could be the most innovative company in history.  Sadly, Steve is no longer with us.  Despite his vegan diet, cancer finally caught up with Steve in October, 2011.  He continued to innovate until the end, but in the time since his passing it has become clear that he was the innovative soul of Apple. 

The problem is the "Innovator's Dilemma."    While most companies focus on sustaining innovation, Apple brought the world disruptive innovations for 30 years.  Some of Apple's disruptions are barely manifest even today, but will inevitably disrupt markets for years to come.  However, what is Apple without Steve? 

Microsoft. Well run, but a sustaining innovator, not a market disruptor.  

Like the big three U.S. auto makers, the big tech companies have moved from making money from innovation into making money from squelching innovation.  The favorite weapon employed by big companies, including Apple, is the patent lawsuit.  There are even "dummy" corporations springing up with no true physical presence or innovative intent that act more like patent trolls than patent bullies by forcing settlements like a troll forces payment to cross a bridge.  

I make no apology for Steve Jobs' patent bullying, but he more than made up for it with his innovations.   My fear is that without Steve, the big tech companies will stop innovating just like the automakers did after Henry Ford and we will slide into another century long innovation rut. 

So who is left to innovate?  

Mark Zuckerberg?  Doubtful, he is much more like Bill Gates than Steve Jobs, much more of a conventional MBA modeled businessman. Capable of innovation, but drawn towards the safety of sustaining innovation than disruptive innovation.

How about Elon Musk?  

Although he is a great choice, he is focused on revolutionizing the automobile and finally pushing the automakers to get off of their asses and do something. Besides, Elon is way to nice of a guy to machiavelliate the kind breakthroughs that Jobs is famous for.

What we need is someone new, someone from the outside, someone that is as brilliant and creative as Jobs. We need an artist with vision. I nominate Jack White! Jack White is as narcissistic as Jobs and even more creative. If Apple put Jack in charge of developing the next great disruption Apple would remain as the industry model for innovative development. Maybe we would get the iCar?  Something like the Tesla and the Google car combined, improving safety and sustainability while keeping it cool and priced for the masses.

But sadly, no one ever listens to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Corporate marriage?

If a corporation is a person, can I marry one?

Seriously?  Doesn’t this question destroy the illegitimate legal fiction that a corporation is a “person” under any definition?  First, to qualify as a person an entity must first be alive.  Second, that entity must have a foreseeable lifespan, that is, it must die.  That lifespan may vary widely between living entities, but it cannot go on indefinitely.  Third, although I am not religious, to be alive an entity must have a soul (21 Grams) or some independent life energy(Vitalism).  Fourth, another key element to life is the ability to reproduce.  Although there is some argument that corporations can spawn other corporations.  This spawn arrives via no mechanism that we would recognize as natural reproduction.  Imagine the right to life argument regarding rules of incorporation.
Originally corporations were formed for a limited time and limited purpose.  Overtime the legal precedent slipped and now the requirement to define a time and purpose is all but gone.  Back then, one could bring a suit against a corporation for acting outside of its original purpose and that purpose had to be very strict.  For instance, a corporation could form to build a bridge, but once that bridge was complete, the same corporation could not then also build the road to the bridge, or even another bridge.
In contrast, I see the corporation as the embodiment of our fears regarding man interfering in the natural process.  Throughout history, we have created myths to warn us away from attempting to create life.  In Jewish myth, there was the Golem created from mud to do the bidding of and protect its creator, and eventually it turned on its creator.  Likewise, Shelly’s Frankenstein monster and Capek’s Robot ultimately turn on their creators and natural life. 
Finally, I side with the Buddha and Dali Lama in that the critical ingredient that makes a human being a person is compassion.  Compassion is the ability to truly empathize with others and understand how one’s action will affect others and the world.  Corporations lack the ability to feel and therefore lack empathy and compassion. 
This lack of empathy is a direct result of how a corporation is structured.  Corporations are naturally sociopathic, existing to consume and grow without regard to their impact on the world around them.  The primary beneficiary of a corporation’s existence, the shareholder, is intentionally separated from the risks of the enterprise.  That is, the shareholder liability is limited to the amount of the investment so the shareholder does not share in the liability for any corporate malfeasance.  Even the corporate officers are insulated from most liability.  An injured party will have a very difficult time recovering from either the corporate officers or the shareholders unless there is direct evidence of the personal intent to cause the harm.  If a corporation simply fails, the remaining shareholders may lose whatever they invested, but the corporate officers simply walk away with whatever golden parachute they created for themselves. 
Additionally, the only motivation that the shareholders have is profit.  There is no return on investment for empathy and therefore no profit motive.  The shareholder is more concerned with the short term gain through dividends and stock valuation than a long term return on investment, or in how the corporation can benefit society as a whole. 
My suggestions?  First, I believe that Asimov developed a fix to the creation conundrum through the three laws of Robotics
  1. A [corporation] may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm[1].
  2. A [corporation] may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  3. A [corporation] must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  4. A [corporation] must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Next, we need to return to a more strict approach to rules of incorporation by clearly defining the purpose and duration of the corporate entity and then enforcing the definition.  By defining the purpose, one can then define the benefit to humanity.  Likewise, by defining the duration, there is less of a chance that the corporation will stray from its original purpose. 

If implemented, these solutions would not inhibit the original purpose for creating a corporation.  That is, to insulate the risk taker from the risk maker thereby encouraging investment by the risk maker without the risk of unlimited liability should the enterprise fail.  This type of construction would still encourage investment and innovation, but would prevent the “to big to fail” quandary of our recent economic crash.

[1] Trevize frowned. "How do you decide what is injurious, or not injurious, to humanity as a whole?"
"Precisely, sir," said Daneel. "In theory, the Zeroth Law was the answer to our problems. In practice, we could never decide. A human being is a concrete object. Injury to a person can be estimated and judged. Humanity is an abstraction."
—Foundation and Earth

Monday, March 21, 2011


Sunday, December 28, 2008

another world travel

Well not exactly the same as my previous posts. I am in Iraq this time as an augmentee to an unit that I don't know and never had an interest in. It is true that they will eventually get you if you stay in long enough.

I have been in for 19 years and technically this is my first combat deployment. However, I was also deployed to England for Desert Storm on B-52s and to Kuwait flying Apaches in 2001.

This deployment does not feel as critical as the first two. We are basically here to turn out the lights and turn everything back over to the locals. With the change in the administration I am sure that all of our time lines for leaving will be accelerated, but I fear that many will be diverted to OEF instead.

For anyone actually reading this I am guessing that you actually know me. I am sorry about the lack of details and photos and I intend to make that up to you. I have been told that we were on the schedule for Internet since I arrived. Every time I check it I am informed that it will be done next week. I would hate to spend the money on a satellite system right now only to find out that a commercial option is available. For now, I am stuck on the SpaWar (free Internet cafe for the Soldiers and Marines) and can not load any pictures because of the ban on RSSD (removable secondary storage devices) which have turned out to be a more successful weapon against us then an AK-47.