Sunday, April 5, 2015

(#184-1) April 5 2015. Don’t buck the system. It will crush you. On the other hand, it will crush you anyway. But maybe not if you are a first principle thinker.






Despite our self-image as being a nation of rugged individualists, we are, in fact, a remarkably conformist society—largely because we are subject to a truly relentless stream of propaganda which instills in us the notion that the American Way of Life is the best in the world—and that America, itself, is exceptional. As a consequence, we really don’t have much to learn from other nations—so why bother to?

Mostly, we don’t.

In fact, our media have largely closed down their foreign bureau. Why not? Americans don’t care about what happens abroad—and, anyway, everything worthwhile is happening here.

And it’s bigger, better and more profitable!

Actually, it is not (please check for yourself) but propaganda says that it is—and most of us tend to go with the flow. Independent thinkers are not that common.

One side effect of this never-ending, brain-numbing flood of lies, distortions, exaggerations, and inaccuracies, is that is that our willingness to question the status quo is either suppressed or eliminated—which suits the movers and shakers just fine. They like things the way they are.

However, a disconcerting side effect is that the kind of people who used to break away, pioneer, and set up new businesses, are conforming as well.

It is easier to conform—and vastly less risky. And over the last half century or so, economic life in the U.S. has become decidedly more risky as corporations have withdrawn from any sense of social responsibility to focus on maximizing shareholder value—a disastrous philosophy if ever there was one (which crosses the line into thoughtless and then inhuman all too often).

It should quite unnecessary to say this, but though a corporation is normally set up to achieve the maximum rate of return for its shareholders, it cannot function in any way without:

  • The legal structure granted by the state. This is incredibly important and valuable because without out it, a corporation doesn’t exist. Accordingly, you might think that a corporation might feel a certain obligation to the state that grants it. Sadly, all too often, you would be wrong.
  • The infrastructure—federal, state, and community—which it utilizes so that it can function. Infrastructure, in this context cover everything from attack by a foreign enemy to the broad range of facilities—from education to standards to ports, airports, roads and sewers which we avail of every day.  A corporation cannot exist in a bubble. It is dependent upon a highly sophisticated support system.
  • Its employees (directors, managers, and workers). Without its employees, a corporation is just a piece of paper.
  • Its suppliers of goods and services.
  • Its professional advisers
  • Its customers.

It is self evident that it has an obligation to all the above—yet the current dogma followed by all too many U.S. corporations is that the only corporate obligation is to shareholders.


The belief that a corporation’s only obligation is to maximize shareholder value is now deeply embedded in the culture of the American Business Model—and is taught in many business schools—despite its moral corruption and the lamentable performance of U.S. business since it was introduced. But, to be fair, it has made a small number of CEOs and ultra-rich shareholders even richer.

Most Americans have suffered from it. The damage it has inflicted on the economy is incalculable.

The following is an interesting perspective by Matt McFarland from the Washington Post of April 3 2015.

The individuals who have founded some of the most success tech companies are decidedly weird. Examine the founder of a truly innovative company and you’ll find a rebel without the usual regard for social customs.

This begs the question, why? Why aren’t more “normal” people with refined social graces building tech companies that change the world? Why are only those on the periphery reaching great heights?

If you ask tech investor Peter Thiel, the problem is a social environment that’s both powerful and destructive. Only individuals with traits reminiscent of Asperger’s Syndrome, which frees them from an attachment to social conventions, have the strength to create innovative businesses amid a culture that discourages daring entrepreneurship.

“Many of the more successful entrepreneurs seem to be suffering from a mild form of Asperger’s where it’s like you’re missing the imitation, socialization gene,” Thiel said Tuesday at George Mason University. “We need to ask what is it about our society where those of us who do not suffer from Asperger’s are at some massive disadvantage because we will be talked out of our interesting, original, creative ideas before they’re even fully formed. Oh that’s a little bit too weird, that’s a little bit too strange and maybe I’ll just go ahead and open the restaurant that I’ve been talking about that everyone else can understand and agree with, or do something extremely safe and conventional.”

An individual with Asperger’s Syndrome — a form of autism — has limited social skills, a willingness to obsess and an interest in systems. Those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be unemployed or underemployed at rates that far exceed the general population. Fitting into the world is difficult.

While full-blown Asperger’s Syndrome or autism hold back careers, a smaller dose of associated traits appears critical to hatching innovations that change the world.

“A typical child might just accept, ‘Okay this is just the way it’s done, this is how we do things in our culture or family,” said Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center in Cambridge. “Someone with autism or Asperger’s, they kind of ask those why questions. They want more logical answers. Just saying ‘Well we do this just because everybody else does,’ that doesn’t meet their test of logic.”

Baron-Cohen says the autistic are interested in what’s called first principles, fundamental rules used to inform their decisions. First principle-thinking happens to be a tactic Elon Musk, the innovative leader of Tesla and SpaceX, says has contributed to his success.

“Rather than reasoning by analogy, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths you can imagine and you reason up from there,” Musk has said. “This is a good way to figure out if something really makes sense or if it’s just what everybody else is doing.”

To be great, you can’t think like everybody else, and you probably won’t fit in to the herd. As a child Musk was bullied and beaten so badly that as an adult he struggled to breathe through his nose and needed corrective surgery.

John Doerr, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins, who was an early investor in Google, Amazon and Netscape, has said that great entrepreneurs tend to have “absolutely no social life.” Great innovators, like those with Asperger’s, just don’t fit in.

VOR words 561.

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