Week 8: Eating Dogs, Price Meddling and Whitegoods

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 8, Summer quarter

Pages assigned for reading: ~135

This was also a week of Strategy Beyond Markets exam (24 hours to answer ~10 questions in “hopefully less than” 3 hours and 16 pages; took me 5h and 10 pages -we’ll see…), a very inspiring guest speaker session with Phil Libin of Evernote (with a surprising amount of cultural parallels to early-days Skype) and series of visiting friends on campus, with Ott actually surviving an entire Microeconomics class (photo courtesy of another guest, Silver):

Usual format of study notes follow, with maybe more than usual further reading / viewing links in the end.

GSBGEN259 – Ethics (prof Krehbiel)

  • Four less-than-adequate, yet popular basic theories for right conduct:
    • Ethical egoism: an act is right when it best promotes the individual’s long-term self-interest
      • Challenge: a murderer and resisting victim are both morally right and neither could be judged
    • Ethical relativism: right and wrong are a function of the moral teachings of a particular society
      • Challenge: based deeply on tolerance (an universal moral value), yet it followed through, would require one to also tolerate a deeply intolerant society militantly enforcing its values on another society. E.g no external judging of genocide if it is considered right by one side?
    • Religious/Revealed Ethics: ethical guidance and instruction derived of a particular religious tradition and sacred texts
      • Challenges: diversity of religious disciplines. Virtually no sacred scripture or teaching is self-explanatory and needs interpretation (independent rational basis of judgement). A statement that a God is “just and loving” is based on… the ordinary human meanings of these terms (infinite loop if right is defined as the “will of God”?)
      • Most religious/revealed ethics are a superset of, and thus largely compatible with secular/rational ethics (e.g most condemn violence, theft, dishonesty, etc)
    • Right as conscience alone: right defined by “internal dictate” alone, with nothing more said
      • Challenge: personal moral judgement should a reflective and reasoned act, seeking to understand and decide weather a course of action is right or wrong. Isolation and lack of dialogue make “conscience” an impenetrable back box anyone can use to justify any conduct.
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Fry’ing the Trolls

I’ve been a long time opponent of anonymous, unauthenticated comments fire-hosed into mainstream online media decidedly without editorial review. They are an unfair and easily manipulative tool for beating down anyone who dares to stick their neck out and state their views in a public forum under their own name – either by writing themselves, or getting written about. Healthy societies need intelligent public discussion, contradicting views and debate-driven consensus, or at least educated compromises. I just don’t get how this cowardly bashing gets flagged as free speech while the opinions it suffocates get dismissed as one.
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More Channels, Fewer Better Messages

  • 1997 it was postcards.
  • 1999 e-mail.
  • 2001 e-cards.
  • 2003 sms.
  • 2005 all of the above.

  • 2007…

I tried to roughly estimate the number of “Merry X-mas” and “Happy New Year” messages I received (or rather – was exposed to?) over this holiday season. Probably in the range of 200? Or 300? In addition to the channels listed above, also came through Skype chats, blogs, RSS feeds, Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, you name it.

Weirdly enough the fact that no single asynchronous channel of delivery, neither analog or digital, clearly dominates over others any more has made it less stressful to be a receiver of good wishes. I have time to physically read through the paper postcards, because there aren’t many. Number of SMS-s is in repliable range. Due to my work I am good at quickly sorting through incoming digital messages and feeds I subscribe to, allowing very little interruption from mass mailings and pure spam – both problems of e-mail and social networks.

Another aspect is that each channel there is has a different level of trust and closeness to it. A good friend who could use any of the above will pick the right channel, timing and message that will get your attention.

In short, the ones that matter, get through. Even if the total number of all messages is much larger than it used to be.

On the flip side, a simple principle I really tried to follow this year when sending greetings: no matter which channel, do not send anything you will not / can not include the addressee’s name in.

No “write to 500 Orkut friends’ scrapbooks at once”. No “send SMS to everyone in adress book”. No reuse of any “xmas cards 2003” mailing list in Outlook. This limits your throughput and you don’t reach everyone you’d like – true. But the ones you do can really be sure it is personal.

And finally, there is nothing more personal than synchronous communication. Call. No wait – make that a video call.