Archive for the ‘ Morality ’ Category

Massive Immorality

This, it seems to me, is the problem with our world. It has become so bad, its immorality cannot be seen – because it is so shocking.

We have to start over – and recognize that moral behavior is essential to our survival – especially in business.

And this means we have to define what moral behavior is. And we have to take this task seriously – and not just brush it aside, as an unimportant consideration.

Our prevailing attitude seems to be “We have to concentrate on making money!” With the implicit assumption, that morality is less important.

Throughout history, people have struggled to make power moral – usually unsuccessfully. And this time will not be any easier. Power Corrupts – and now we have more power to deal with – with the introduction of TV and the Computer.

We have to take a hard look at this new power.

Consider this:

Technology is a powerful force in our society. Data, software, and communication can be used for bad: to entrench unfair power structures, to undermine human rights, and to protect vested interests. But they can also be used for good: to make underrepresented people’s voices heard, to create opportunities for everyone, and to avert disasters.

But this is followed by:

Computing is pop culture. […] Pop culture holds a disdain for history. Pop culture is all about identity and feeling like you’re participating. It has nothing to do with cooperation, the past or the future—it’s living in the present. I think the same is true of most people who write code for money. They have no idea where [their culture came from].

Both of these are from Designing Data-Intensive Applications. A book about designing software.

The second quote is more important – people have no idea where their culture came from – or, for that matter – what it is. They just act it out.

As a person who once wrote code for money, and wrote much else for money – I developed an allergic reaction to it, and dropped out. The people I left behind, who had the same problem – simply ignored it.

The problem was too big for them to deal with. So it continues.

Making Promises You do Not Keep

This is such a common practice now, few object to it. But it still does not feel right to me – and I want to raise my feeble voice against it.

The common attitude seems to be “The only way to get ahead is doing whatever is necessary to survive in a highly competitive world.” Taking care of other people can wait for awhile.

But taking care of other people cannot wait – it has to be done now, as part of our normal practices – including business practices. This is what makes Business work – honesty. Trading defective products wrecks the entire trading process. It destroys the Market.

But this is going on. It’s all too easy, as life becomes more complicated – to sneak in a little dishonesty – to make a little more money for ourselves, at the expense of others. Nobody will notice. But whether anyone notices or not, does not matter. The atmosphere is poisoned for everyone.

I grew up in an American Midwest that produced most of the world’s products – but it is now a Rust Belt that produces nothing. Too many people were only interest in taking care of themselves – at the expense of others.

The result was the collapse of an entire era.

What Does It Mean, To Have an Idea?

I am taking a MOOC about Cognitive Neuroscience – how our nerves let us feel and think. It refers to a book I have on my desk Metaphors We Live By – that explains how our brains use areas associated with practical matters, such as our ability navigate through space (a very complicated task!) – to think of abstract ideas, such as Love.

Plenty of smaller animals have most of these skills – the tiny flying insects, so common in the tropics, for example – can fly, walk, see, smell, and taste – and reproduce in vast numbers. But it takes a large brain (like the one we have) to use language, and be conscious.

We do have some understanding of how we feel and reason – by giving people some simple problems to solve, and watching how they solve them – in perhaps a fMRI, a functional MRI. Certain areas of the brain are used to do different things.

This is the basis of Experimental Science – one of the greatest advances in human knowledge. But one which most people today have rejected entirely.

No Science for them! They are not interested in the way things are – only in the way they should be. They are not interested in learning from the world – only in making the world learn from them.

A crazy idea if ever there was one.

Corporate Social Responsibility CSR

edX

For corporations, or any organization, to be socially responsible – they, first of all, have to want to be responsible.

And in my forty years in the workplace, working for a wide variety of organizations – I never worked for a single one, that was the least bit socially responsible. They were respectable (very much so) but not responsible.

This course on edX is designed to help companies be socially responsible – but I overlooked it, because I thought it was impossible. Perhaps I was too pessimistic – but I had been there, and done that – and I had got out, the best way I could.

For me, the organization that came to mind, was my family’s church. It was respectable, but not the least bit responsible. And it quietly disappeared – because the world had no use for it. If it was not going to be good for them – they were not going to be good for it.

The same thing can be said for most people in today’s world – the world does not need them – and is busy getting rid of them. This is not a pretty sight – the world getting rid of millions of people, for no fault of their own – but it has to be done.

A great cleansing is going on – and the world will emerge purified.

Machine Learning

This is the hottest field in Computer Science today – making Computers smarter (sometimes referred to as Artificial Intelligence). The logic here is simple – smart computers will make smart companies richer.

This, in itself, is not a bad thing – but it sure attracts bad people.

The analogy here is obvious – making bronze swords was innocent enough – but the people who used them were not. They did not hesitate to stick other people in the guts.

In the same way, unscrupulous businessmen do not hesitate to take advantage of other people – in any way they can.

And they can be very clever at this. And very good at getting the Government to protect them – all they have to do is buy them up.

Manipulating People

Is this good or bad?

The general consensus seems to be that, looked at carefully, it is immoral (it is telling lies, aimed at deceiving people) – but, taking a larger view, it is good, because it sells more – and makes more money. And making more money is good.

It also makes the powerful more more powerful – a state of affairs, that most people consider desirable. If the rich get richer, they think – they will get richer also.

Allow me to back up and examine one statement more carefully – having more money is a good thing. Allow me to expand that by talking about the Economy – having more money around is good for the Economy.

Whether this is good or bad does not matter – people everywhere are moving from where there is little money, to where there is more money. From the country to the cities – where the quality of life is low, but there is money – and all the good things it can buy. Or from poor countries to richer countries – where there is money – and jobs.

I made this move myself, when I was a young Electronic Engineer. Without thinking about it, I moved from the Midwestern Rust Belt, to the East Coast – where there were plenty of jobs. I moved from where there was little money, to where there was plenty of it.

Money attracts more money. And this feeds into a boom/bust situation. And an unstable economy. And the overall net result – of a depressed economy.

I repeat that – we now live in a depressed economy – with no improvement in sight.

And this is driving people nuts.

Hierarchy on a Global Scale

Hierarchy appeared as soon as we became civilized – only a few thousand years ago. Civilization needed some way to organize itself, and hierarchy was the obvious answer. But this caused a problem – those on the bottom of the hierarchy were not always satisfied with their lot.

Creating a society that satisfied everyone seemed an impossible task – and most did not even try. It’s time we asked ourselves this question again “Is an equitable and just society possible?”

The answer, for most Americans is “No, absolutely not!” And underneath this answer, is the unspoken reason “We got ours, and we intend to keep it!” Or, to put this another way “Our way, or the highway!”

Does it have to be this way? Perhaps not. But making this change will entail some big changes in the way we do business. Changes that have already been made in some industries. Such as aircraft assembly, in Airbus’s Epic Assembly Line – and in Software Development, where some amazing stuff is going on.

I have to distinguish here between the Software Industry – that is still doing everything wrong – and the Software People – who are working to do everything right. As shown in this O’Reilly newsletter. An epic struggle is going on here, and it is too soon to declare a winner. In fact, most people are not even aware this struggle is going on.

They have opted to stay out of everything – thinking this will keep them safe.