Archive for the 'Belief' Category

The benefits of technology battles

Gizmodo produced this helpful map of the battlefronts between Microsoft, Google, and Apple.  One could expand this endlessly, but a couple of other fronts to note might be Amazon’s commerce/content/cloud platform, and mobile/internet carriers fighting to keep from being commodity pipes.  Notice none of the device-centric players are on the map – a bummer for one who appreciates devices and design.

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As a person with a strategic bent, I find the dynamics of the tech market scintillating.  This is why I left the food business for the personal technology market.  In food, with all of its marketing know-how, if unit sales were growing faster than the population growth, you had a winner, and then almost always at someone else’s expense.  In tech, the internet happens, Google search happens, and iPhone happens.  Competing tenaciously, companies with a lot of smart, creative people try to out-awesome each other.  Things change as a result — change which impacts and (mostly) enables the way billions of people do things.

As a matter of belief, I refuse to trust technology to fundamentally improve the state of the world.  For every boon (e.g., the ubiquity of communication counters ignorance and exposes badness), there is a bane (e.g., people consume and create as much unhealthy content as conscience allows).  The root of the world’s trouble is not a gap in the  sufficiency of wizzy tech.  But at least tech causes movement, and in movement comes opportunity — opportunities for profit, sure, but also for other goodness.

Despite conspiracy theories, I believe Larry and Sergey are sincere when they pledge Google to avoid “evil.”  Many might argue that their moral compass is out of alignment, but they do put forth efforts on clean energy and employ civil disobedience in the name of freedom.  And their search tool lets me find information and people instantly.  Microsoft’s success has funded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  And their Office apps are my favorite tool kit.  Apple has done many….hmmm.  Well, at least my wife finally can access my calendar via her iPhone (and Google).

One of the things I appreciate most about tech is that it creates new markets.  Instead of spending my (whole) day trying to ruin competitors by taking share, profit, bonuses, jobs, and livelihoods from them, I can add new value and new capability to customers.  Hopefully, they do good things with that capability, and hopefully, I’ll set a good example.

I get the value of competition in providing economic benefit and do my part in combat, but I advocate a balance of intent (I love the B Corp concept).  Let me work on the innovative front, climbing new mountains, rather than focusing exclusively on knocking people off the old ones.  And cheers for our God-given capability to invent things that create those opportunities.

For the person who has everything?

My Christmas shopping worries are over.

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Actually, this brings up other worries.  These things, and others in the How On Earth category, would not exist but for consumer demand.  On the surface, it’s funny.  But at its foundations, it is tragic.

Obama at Notre Dame

I went to Notre Dame.  I watched the president’s address at commencement today.  I was proud.

A story was told by Obama of University President Emeritus Theodore Hesburgh’s role on the Civil Rights Commission, which negotiated and drafted the resolutions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Apparently, Hesburgh was the key to the members finding common ground.   At the end of Obama’s remarks, he was presented with a photo of Hesburgh and Martin Luther King, Jr. at a rally singing We Shall Overcome.  At 92, Hesburgh was in the audience today.

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Here are two important excerpts from the proceedings:

President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Others might have avoided this venue for that reason. But President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him.

Mr. President: This is a principle we share.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.”

- Rev John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame


…the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.

It’s a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. The lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where “differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality and especially love.”

…But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt.

…This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame.”

- Barack Obama, President of the United States


Both parties are emphasizing a point I make to my daughters:  unless you are willing to listen and understand, you cannot expect another to do the same.  I would like to see this attempted in Washington.

Mr. President, if you mean what you say, you are welcome at my university.

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Why so emotional?

Perhaps you’ve seen this video of an audition for Britain’s Got Talent. It likely brought a tear to your eye.  It brought many to mine, and I’ve rarely been accused of emotionality.

[click here to view]

Assuming I’m not alone, perhaps this is an opportunity to discover something important about ourselves.  So let’s use the test of whys to dig toward the root of this.

Why are we moved by Susan’s performance?  My answer:  Human excellence inspires; and excellence is present here in an unlikely person.

Why does human excellence inspire?  We have an internal compass which points to perfection.  Perhaps this is a matter of belief, but see Plato for an endorsement.  When someone achieves excellence, it resonates with our true north.

Why is Susan unlikely?  Because we favor and invest in and direct attention to people who look like the blonde judge (Amanda Holden), not like Susan.  If a Holden lookalike had been on stage instead, we would have said “well done, as expected” (no tears).

Why do we favor the physically beautiful, to the detriment of others?  Because our hierarchy of values is broken.  Beauty is good, and we have an innate ability to recognize it.  But higher forms of beauty have been subjugated by the lesser.  How it got to be broken is a separate discussion.

Why the emotional response?  There are two motivators: 1) joy in beauty, and 2) remorse for our misaligned values.  The surprise of excellence in the person of Susan exposes our brokenness.  We are reminded of higher forms of beauty, our relegation of those to lower positions , and the harm yielded by that misalignment (we imagine Susan’s pain at the hands of our collective prejudice).  For a moment, we respond in love to Susan and hope for healing.

Good news

A dogwood I thought was dead is alive.

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Happy Easter!



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