As I was elected to be the Sloan Fellows representative to our school’s newspaper The GSB Reporter for this year and even though I have (see Herbert’s reflection on organizing our flash mob) and will be recruiting classmates to do most of the writing, I did submit an opinion below into the first issue that came out this week. Re-posting it here as getting the paper fully online is one of the priorities for the editorial team, but a work in progress. And for the non-local readers, have spiced the text up with some hyperlinks for background & context.
The Stanford Bubbles
The heat of the Summer quarter on campus, a luxurious head start the Sloan Fellows of GSB had this year left us a little space to ponder where have we landed. Walking one day between our campus lawns maintained exclusively with nail clippers, so lush green on the backdrop of deeply burned hillsides around The Dish it suddenly struck me:
We are truly living in a bubble here.
Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 7 (17), Autumn quarter
This week will go down in history as the one that finally saw the portfolio of profiles of every single Fellow of the Stanford Sloans class of 2013 hit the public interwebs. Please meet my lovely class in its diversity, internationally and otherwise.
On other news, Americans re-elected Obama for their President (aka POTUS – didn’t know that one before) on Tuesday, which in the fair state of California sounded more like a sign of relief. And I, in turn, spent far too much time on Estonian blogs, chats and Facebook threads, tracking an insane sequence of judgement lapses by some party politics leaders back home. Between these two parallel world, I could not have had a better week to start a new class, Political Communications: How Leaders Become Leaders taught by a very experienced practitioner in the field, David Demarest.
Covered in this issue:
- Why calling taxes “revenue enhancement” works
- Why globalization and CxO executive titles should be taken less for granted than people think
- How the classic forms of political communications, a speech and a debate, are constructed by the best
- How 20-30 year old experimental art tends to turn into everyday products eventually
- Necessary evils around good old software development: intangible assets, intellectual property, patents
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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During the holidays it was quite funny to see a classic butterfly effect in action when Ross and Robert Scoble were… buying yogurt in Palo Alto. “Confirmed: Steve is healthy!” went from a casual comment of the yogurt counter employee to Chinese tech news in just a matter of hours.
Yesterday I was occasionally peeking on a real-time feed by macrumorslive.com covering the MacWorld ’09 Keynote (which was not delivered by Steve any more, as you know). Less than 30 minutes into the session a screaming “STEVE JOBS JUST DIED” note was inserted into the feed – here’s a screenshot:
It took the editors 3 minutes to figure out their system had been penetrated and retract the “news” (but they could not delete it). Then the hackers went over the top spamming with new messages and eventually the whole site was taken down.
As MacRumors is probably one of the most heavily used outlets for non-official Apple coverage, I can only imagine the tweets and posts on the friendfeeds and facebooks of this world that could have been triggered by the naive among readers in those brief minutes. No, I’m not even going to research for this.
I think it would have been wise for Steve had broken his typical radio silence before he finally did to avoid or just to respond early to speculations. Even though no person is really obliged to comment on the matters as private as their health, this rumor mill has become much more unhealthy than it’s subject. Just a few words at the right time direct from the source could have stopped the madness before it begun. A great PR case study in the age of unstoppable instant social media.
I hope Steve has many long and fruitful years ahead of him. And so does Apple, and all the other talented people working there. And the “fanboys” let them to enjoy their ride.
Thomas L. Friedman wrote in the Herald Tribune a few years ago a column that acknowledged, and probably injected a lot of self confidence to innovators outside of the usual suspect American hightech hubs. Written from an angle of criticism towards the American high school system, I found his text much more useful read upside down – thinking about how the more remote areas previously known for their cheap labour and mass quantity low tech production are winning share on the global innovation arena. “In a flat world people can now innovate without having to emigrate,” as Friedman put it in rhyme.
Now in one of the recent issues of FastCompany, Richard Florida took a look back and found that the innovation world has not gone flat afterall. Highly recommended read as a whole, but I picked out a few interesting facts for myself:
- Of the roughly 170,000 patents granted in 2003 in the United States–which gets applications for nearly all major inventions worldwide–nearly 80% went to Americans, Japanese, and Germans. The next 10 most innovative countries–the usual suspects in Europe, plus Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, and Canada–produced another 15%. The rest of the world accounted for only 5%, with India and China responsible for just 0.4%.
- Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs founded or cofounded roughly 30% of all Silicon Valley startups in the late 1990s, generating $20 billion in annual revenue and about 70,000 jobs.
- There are about 150 million (!) people in highly mobile, global creative class who migrate freely among the world’s leading cities–places such as London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
What Friedman originally called for as producing a comprehensive U.S. response – encompassing immigration, intellectual property law and educational policy – is more valid than ever in this situation… but maybe even more so for the “receding valleys between spikes” as described by Florida. Umm… like Estonia?
To share another recent radio appearance (the previous one in Estonian only, sorry) here is my interview for Marco Werman at PRI’s The World that aired on a network of radio stations across the US in January: MP3, 4.5 minutes. We talked a little about Skype, but more about the factors that have enabled tiny Estonia to introduce a number of tech innovations both inside the country and for the world.
To understand the context for the interview, please listen to (direct MP3 link) Cyrus Farivar‘s report on Enterprise Estonia opening offices in Silicon Valley, featuring also Andrus Viirg and Steve Jürvetson.
PS: on a totally different topic, I got reminded of the above audio files being available by a blog post on The Future of Newsrooms. Interesting reading around journalists’ changing role (information broker VS investigator). I’m afraid this specific post above here creates a crashing meta-referral of “my own thoughts” back to “mainstream media”, El Oso?
Read a great column by Clive Thompson in Wired’s September issue on how big numbers (and lack of numeracy there) affects people’s charity decisions.
He studies a troubling paradox in human empathy: We’ll usually race to help a single stranger in dire straits, while ignoring huge numbers of people in precisely the same plight. We’ll donate thousands of dollars to bring a single African war orphan to the US for lifesaving surgery, but we don’t offer much money or political pressure to stop widespread genocides in Rwanda or Darfur.
The problem isn’t a moral failing: It’s a cognitive one.