Archive for the ‘ Business ’ Category

Business Ethics

I am living in a time where the gap between what Americans say they are, and what they actually are – is immense. And no one seems to find this surprising. “That’s just the way it is!” they will say. As if this justifies anything.

I have recently bought a couple of new digital cameras – and have been shocked by the problems I ran into trying to use them. Aren’t these companies trying to protect their brand names?

I brought down an older digital camera from the shelf where it had been gathering dust, took out the CDs for installing it, and went through the installation process. This was straightforward cookbook stuff – do this, do this, and you will get that. And sure enough, the camera worked fine, and I can save my stuff from my camera, to my computer!

I now hang it around my neck when I go on my bicycle rides – in case I see something I want to take a photo of, or a video, of.

If I see something interesting, I have to work fast – to make sure my camera sees it before it goes away!

Starbucks Responds to Trump’s Immigration Ban With a Controversial Move

Inc.

The last time I was in the States, visiting my cousin, who lives in the DC area – we visited a local Starbucks, at my insistence. I wanted to taste their latest coffee blend. I liked it, because it had a distinctive taste.

My cousin took an instant dislike to the place – it was too elitist for his taste. And not really American. He bought his coffee next door at a fast-food drivein. He got a lot of coffee for his money, and he didn’t have to get out of his truck.

What Do We Think of People?

This might seem like a stupid question – but it seems to me, to be the most important question we can ask ourselves.

Sometime in the middle of the 19th Century, we started to think of ourselves as better than people. And in a sense, we were.

We had discovered Objective Reality – as contrasted to the Subjective Reality that we had lived in before. New concepts of space and time that let us think about the very big and the very small. And let us plan for the future.

Living in Costa Rica, part of Latin America, I can see how they are handicapped by not being able to do this. Americans can do a cost/benefit analysis for any problem that comes up – and select the best solution. Latinos cannot.

On the other hand, they do have a big advantage – they still like people, and consider themselves people. When Americans do not.

I am finally getting to the main thing I wanted to talk about in this posting – America’s attitude toward people. They consider themselves superior beings – better than people, and able to take advantage of them.

They acquired this attitude directly from the British, and their British Empire. When this ended, at the end of WWII, the Americans took over.

American organizations (especially American Corporations) moved into positions of power, and took control of the global economy.

Americans identified with this power, not with the people it subjugated – including many of their own people. The people in control of any organization, had power over those below them, and considered them secondary beings.

From Customer to Consumer to User

This change happened in my lifetime – the last half of the 20th Century. This was characterized by Industry, Television, and the Computer.

I was born in an Industrial town, Ft. Madison, Iowa, in 1936. The West End of town was dominated by the Santa Fe Railroad – and the East End by the Sheaffer Pen Company. It had the two fundamentals of Industry – Transportation and Manufacturing.

Ft. Madison was a part of the huge manufacturing complex in the American Midwest that produced half of the World’s goods at the time – as well as much of its agricultural produce. Chicago, not far away, was the Hog Butcher to the World.

It had jobs and lots of them. And it knew how to do everything.


Then came the TV. And its impact was overwhelming. People didn’t have to go to the movies anymore. The movies were delivered to them, in their living rooms – for free! People were no longer active customers, choosing what they wanted to buy – they were passive consumers – buying whatever they saw advertised on their TV.


Then came the Computer – which people saw as an extension of the TV – only better! And they had the same passive attitude toward it. It was there to entertain them. And that was all they wanted – better entertainment!

This consumer culture quickly became global. People did not think about their situation – they only wanted more of everything. And they saw no reason whey they should not have this. They wanted what the saw on their TVs – and then what they saw on their smartphones.

They did not care how the Computer – with its networks, the Internet and the Wireless – worked, but Business did. And quickly took advantage of it.

This resulted in a new way of doing business – and a new relationship to those who used their services. Who became users.

A new kind of worker also emerged – knowledge workers. Who understood what was going on in the computer scene – and were well-rewarded for their efforts.


A new symbiosis appeared between companies and their users. They both needed each other!

They had to develop a new relationship toward each other for each new kind of product that was developed. This meant a new user interface (UX) had to be developed, with the company and its users, inventing it with each other!

Gone were the days when a business knew everything. It now had to assume it knew nothing – and it would have to work in the dark, rapidly trying out new ideas – with its users.

Zombie Startups

BackChannel

Perhaps the lesson here is that sometimes technologies are not products. And they’re not companies. They’re just damn good technologies. Vint Cerf did not land a Google-size fortune for having helped invent the TCP/IP protocols that power the Internet (though he did get the U.S. National Medal of Technology). What’s more, to be successful, a startup requires both a great idea for a product or service, and a great idea for how to make money off of it. One without the other will fail.

I would add one more requirement – the company has to guard against the pirates who will automatically show up, out of nowhere. These guys can smell an opportunity, and easily bomboozle everyone into giving them the loot.

Does This App Like Me?

Computer users have rights, and they are not afraid of using them. They are always looking for more satisfying experiences – and they will go to great lengths to find them.

At least some of them will – the rest have been too heavily conditioned by Industrialization to think about what they are using – and will go with what everyone else wants.

This change in user behavior, is not something businessmen have accepted easily. They still want to force the users to behave the way they want them to.

In the past, they exhibited cheap trade goods to the savages – who then give them something valuable for them. The users are no longer savages, and they expect modern goods and services for their money.

However, Business is still in control – and is determined to stay that way. They will say the Market is in control – but it’s not hard to see that they control the Market.

If the Computer gives us any lasting advantage – it will be this shift in user behavior. From Consumers (people who cannot think) to Users (people who can think).

Will this actually happen? It’s too soon to tell. But I am skeptical.

Stupidity has been enforced for so long – it’s not likely to change.

What has the Computer Done To Us?

I did not ask what the Computer had done for us – which is the way this question is usually phrased. It has given us marvelous new capabilities – but also huge new problems. It is the problems I want to write about today.

It has made Business more powerful – but at the same time, it has made People less powerful.

What do I mean by Business and People?

By Business (business with a capital B) I mean Big Business – Global Business, in fact. It can now prey on everyone, everywhere. It has given the worst kind of people the most power. And we should not be surprised by what they are doing with it.

What do I mean by People? I mean the mass of people – who were trained by Industrialization to be workers in its factories. They were supposed to do their job – and not question what they were doing. They were parts of the Industrial Machine.

The Computer is the latest machine – and it is doing what machines always do – form large organizations of people, that can be used by the rich and powerful – to become richer and more powerful.