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Leland LeCuyer
Of two minds, in contradiction with myself...
Of two minds, in contradiction with myself...

Leland's posts

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Two Models Of Capitalism
I just ran into this article on Forbes and immediately thought of this community. +Julian Birkinshaw examines why the proposed merger of Kraft Heinz with Unilever was withdrawn. He sees it as not only a clash between widely different and possibly irreconcilable business cultures, but a between two distinct models of business. Kraft Heinz is a relentless cost-cutting, profit-maximizing machine aiming to enrich its shareholders; Unilever “exemplifies the view of a corporation as a force for good in society.”

Birkinshaw became all mushy at the end, arguing we need “a balanced diet” of capitalism — namely that there’s a need for both ruthless efficiency and social benefit. However, contrary to what Birkinshaw appears to be advocating here, these two visions of business cannot exist separately without inflicting terrible harm upon society and the earth itself. A company can be ruthlessly efficient at manufacturing disaster. Indeed the standard model of shareholder sovereignty has proven to be a recipe for precisely that, as evidenced not only by the usual suspects — tobacco and oil companies — but even in businesses that one would expect to provide socially beneficial services — food companies and hospitals. Too often the impulse to generate profit leads to decisions which undermine the very mission that the firm purportedly was established to fulfill.

I am more inclined to agree with Peter Drucker who claimed business enterprises “do not exist for their own sake, but to fulfill a specific social purpose and to satisfy a specific need of a society, a community, or individuals.” History supports Drucker’s observation, because long before shareholder supremacy became codified into law, all corporate charters required a specific goal and the corporation would dissolve upon fulfillment of that goal. Open-ended corporate charters, not to mention corporate “personhood” were not established until the railroad.

But I’m preaching to the converted. What about the other side of Birkinshaw's thesis?

I can lay claim to the title of "World’s Worst Businessman,” thus I attest from experience that engaging to do good in the world also demands discipline — even (or especially) fiscal discipline. Being broke harbors a strange tendency to limit the good that one can do. It goes without saying that a modicum of ruthlessness is required even in the pursuit of good.

So permit me to channel someone who is widely regarded as a better businessman than me — Steve Jobs — and add “one last thing”: Even the most bottom-line oriented capitalist enterprise like Kraft succeeds at doing some good. At the very least it makes money for its investors. The problem isn't whether or not it does some good; instead the problem is who benefits and the corollary who gets harmed. The problem with the bottom line is that it has been too narrowly defined.

Similarly, corporations like Unilever that strive to benefit society may be accused of defining their mission too broadly. How exactly does a firm benefit society? All of society? Like all things, there must be tradeoffs: benefits and harms. A good business seeks to benefit others in addition to themselves. It also seeks to mitigate whatever harm it induces. These are not easy things to do or to measure. P&L balance sheets do not exist to hold an entity to account for the impact it has upon the world.

In the end a business or an individual may only do so much. Like my grandmother taught, try to leave the world a little better than before.

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Naked Censorship
Facebook dictates what may be seen — or shown. Again.

cc +David Amerland

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Get Thee To Adelaide
Want to Kick Ass, +David Amerland?

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Big and Small: Zoom, Zoom

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Two Views of Reality
Which is more fundamental: (1) Matter and energy, or (2) Consciousness?

These pictures were snapped from Roger Penrose's book, The Large, the Small and the Human Mind.
2 Photos - View album

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Importance always means one thing in relation to another.
There is no such thing as importance alone.

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Human Males Now Obsolete
What's the wurst that could happen?


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Do Feynman Diagrams Suggest a Higher Dimension?
+Jonathan Robert Banks's book A New World: Book I The Science of Higher Dimensional Computation and Metaphysics arrived last night. (Amazon Link: I've already begun to dive into it. Banks therein examines "the quantum vacuum as a higher dimension."

Meanwhile, checking my email, I came across this new article in Quanta Magazine, "How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space," by MIT physicist Frank Wilczek, an article that at least nominally addresses a similar topic as Banks. (Link:

Feynman and Wilczek, it appears, are content to work within the four dimensions of spacetime. Banks, however, at initial glance seems to be saying that the spacetime model is insufficient to explain the phenomena. I am inclined to agree with Banks. Spinoza raised the question "why does something exist rather than nothing?" But more to the point is the question "why does this particular thing exist at this particular time in this particular place?" In short, this is the movement from abstraction to reality, from a universal to an existing particular, from probability to causality. Spacetime is a container. But why does it contain what it contains? Why here? Why now?

The animated gif below depicts gluon activity in a vacuum. It was created by Derek Leinweber and appears in Wilczek's article.
Animated Photo

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Occupy Venus
+Tristan Cunha is recruiting.
Who wants to go to Venus with me?? It's much warmer there than Mars, we can have cities in the sky, plus we're practically next door neighbors.


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Is Morality Based on Logic or on Emotion?
Daniel Kahneman interviews Molly Crockett
Below links to a fascinating conversation between a preeminent senior researcher and a brilliant up-and-coming junior faculty member. Crockett is an associate professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. Kahneman capped a life-long career as one of the principal founders of the field of social psychology by writing the best-seller, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

I will refrain from presenting my own critical analysis here, as I wish to give priority to what they said over my own response. However, I intend to post my critique in a separate post, and will add a link to it below.

Instead let me explain here some of the technical language employed by Kahneman and Crockett. The title added by the editor to this interview is "Deontology or Trustworthiness?" No doubt many of you are wondering "What the heck is Deontology?" Additionally, Kahneman himself seems to be wondering "What does Deontology have to do with Psychology?"

Crockett begins by stating: "I've always been interested in how we make decisions." Particularly moral decisions. She finds in the philosophical literature two major and opposed theories about how people decide what is right: Consequentialism and Deontology. Consequentialism, as the name implies, looks to the (intended) consequences of the action for moral justification. Crockett, however, immediately reduces Consequentialism to Utilitarianism, defining it here as "the morally right action is the one that maximizes the greatest good for the greatest number of people." It's worthy to note that Utilitarianism is but one of many different Consequentialist theories; perhaps not even the most interesting one.

Deontology doesn't examine results so much as the action itself. Certain things are morally wrong to do. Ever. Crockett notes: "these are normative theories, they're prescriptions for what we ought to do." Or not to do, I'll add.

The arc of the conversation centers around Kahneman's reservation about applying these "rational" philosophical arguments to a discipline, psychology, which strives to explain the often "irrational" choices people make. Are an individual's moral choices and judgments about other people's choices based primarily upon rational deliberation ("slow thinking" in Kahneman's book) or an emotional reaction ("fast thinking")?

Fascinating. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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