Creating Value in the 21st Century

I have a new talk that I’m beginning to get a handle on called “Creating Value in the 21st Century.”

It’s based around the idea of pushing our culture to see value beyond antiquarian measurement systems like the GDP or the DOW and move towards the inclusion of social and connection value systems that the new culture paradigm is establishing. For instance, the value of the United States as a country is still measured in the GDP, or the Gross Domestic Product, and as long as that number is going up our value as a society is as well. For reference it is defined as ‘the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.’

Adding to that, there is a formula where the actual GDP number itself derives. Investopedia lays it out in the the following way:

GDP = C + G + I + NX


C is equal to all private consumption, or consumer spending, in a nation’s economy, G is the sum of government spending, I is the sum of all the country’s investment, including businesses capital expenditures and NX is the nation’s total net exports, calculated as total exports minus total imports (NX = Exports – Imports).

(For more detail click here)

I am not an economist however, I understand that as an economic indicator in and of itself there remains popularity in the GDP because it deals with not just the value of what’s sold but also of the materials that go into whatever it is that is sold. So, theoretically the entire supply chain is accounted for.

If we take that snap shot and use it as the tell tale lens for a peoples overall health as a nation I propose there is something very flawed about that because it doesn’t take into account all the subtle, spiritual, inspirational, thought provoking and peer to peer work that most of us our doing on any given day. Therefore, with all of our insanely amazing ability to think, inspire and grow ourselves into these increasingly complicated biological connection machines there has to be a system of measurement that goes beyond just rudimentary manufacturing and sales variables that make up things like the GDP.

Let’s take the example of a favorite yoga teacher within your community. Let’s say your specific community and friend pool has a yoga teacher that is everyones favorite. His or her regular classes are usually packed and the feeling that is felt when leaving the class is commonly experienced to be ecstatic, inspired and transformational. For the sake of this example let’s say that there are 50 people who are in each class 4-5 times a week and of those 150 are unique (the other 50 being repeats). Those 150 people go out into the world completely changed people and take that change into their own individual lives. It’s without question, they are better teachers, parents, workers, lovers and friends all as a result of this one yoga teacher. Therefore the exponential effect that this one person has on the endless touch points of the 150 students is enormous and unmeasurable. If you really think about it, this yoga teacher may indirectly effect thousands of lives. Literally. That is value. That is real, tangible, un-esoteric value that makes the fabric of our society a better place. Yet, this person is often ignored as a value stake holder unless he or she creates a business around it.

Let’s look at another person. Let’s make it up and just say this person is the CEO of a successful pen company. Plugging in the variables lets determine that the pen company is in the US, does not outsource manufacturing, has been profitable for the last several years and employs around 300 people. Certainly, employment is good because it allows the worker to earn money that can provide for food, gas and various living expenses. Thus the town that the pen company is headquartered experiences value because of local tax revenue and steady employment for many local families. Because we’re assuming the pen company is profitable that means the CEO is wealthy as is credited for stimulating the GDP and might be heralded as a powerful and valuable person because of his or her ability to guide the success of the company. That CEO may rise to fame and fortune because he or she has managed to create a financial eco system that makes good on the American dream. These are the heroes of our society – take Jack Welch or Henry Ford for example.

When comparing and contrasting the two people and their function in society I’m sorry but I do not see the pen company CEO as providing more value than the amazing yoga teacher. It’s just that the value of the pen company can be measured so specifically and with great precision that we have gotten in the habit of only looking at value this way. This is flawed. The yoga teachers value, while not instantly measurable, provides for healthier, more compassionate, stable and inspired people which when trickled out into the world is certainly very powerful.

One may ask – well…if you had no pen company then the workers could have no money to take the yoga class! True! But if you had no yoga teacher then the worker wouldn’t be nearly as good of a worker thus productivity at the pen company would be down.

There are many more examples that I can illustrate. Many of which go beyond employment mechanisms and roles and stretch out into more nebulous realms like social media and media. More on those in follow ups to this post.

The point is that I think we need to stop and re calibrate our overall value systems. I don’t propose we do away with gigantic pillars of the industrial age but I do propose we integrate new thinking and consider new combinations of system indictors as we move into the future.

(Thank you Douglas Rushkoff and Joi Ito for inspiring me on the topic of value)

Atheism and Big Data – a love affair

Imagine a time when you were walking through life without knowing much about anything around you. How you got here, how old the planet is and it’s place in the galaxy was a total mystery until not that long ago. Because of the vast mystery that enshrouded every single person back in those days the natural proclivity was to embrace religion and the explanation that it provided. Mythology, doctrine and dogma provided a sense of relief and comfort to this thing we call consciousness.

Time marches on of course and new explanations have come to light. Mans focus on pursuing science has no doubt given way to incredible insight into the origins of our species, the planet we live on and the universe as a whole. Going beyond just our origins we’ve gotten very creative with our ingenuity and now understand how to accomplish great feats that would have seen most men burn at the stake for their heretic suggestions. Remember, even Galileo wasn’t believed at first and faced a roman inquisition for heliocentrism.

Fast forward to now. We live in an age where so much of our surrounding worlds both inside and outside of us can be quantified, categorized and analyzed to the point of exhaustion. It almost seems that we are on a track to figure everything out. Because of this more and more people are starting to abandon the idea of mysticism or religion in favor of cold hard data. This is the age of Big Data.

Technically speaking the term “Big Data” refers to the way in which our modern computational power gets hung up on the amount of data and thus needs to rethink it’s relationship to it in and of itself.

Wiki says:

Big data is a broad term for data sets so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. Challenges include analysis, capture, data curation, search, sharingstoragetransfervisualizationquerying and information privacy. The term often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics or certain other advanced methods to extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Accuracy in big data may lead to more confident decision making, and better decisions can result in greater operational efficiency, cost reduction and reduced risk.

Moving beyond the academic definition however, we will also see that Big Data is also a descriptor for the age in which we are currently living in. We’ve moved beyond the Information Age and into a brave new subset of where technology and science has not only grown so incredibly huge and precise but it’s also given meaning to the way we live. Science has taken the place of God.

For example, here are three very basic and now commonplace occurrences of Big Data in action.

Many millennials define themselves by their social media profiles and how those data sets mirror the projection of what it is they think they are. And that accompanying algorithm for how to keep up and market to this set of people is becoming increasingly complex and onerous. Or take a very rudimentary understanding of a discovery found within Quantum Mechanics that basically says that light and matter are made up of the same stuff. Another example might be; take an analytical dive into the study of the human genome project that’s setting out to map our entire DNA structure from a functional and physical standpoint.

There are endless other examples of how the measurement of our physical world has gotten so precise and qualitatively satisfying that has in fact given way to not just the material world but also our existential one. The increasing accuracy of science and it’s accompanying technology is now defining who we are, how we got here, our purpose for being here and is giving us the ability to somehow fit those concepts into a measurability that makes sense to us.

Of course it’s true that most of us, including myself, don’t understand the actual complexity of the living and breathing Big Data machine that surrounds our daily lives. The sheer amount of storage space that Facebook is using everyday boggles the mind. Or try explaining credit default swaps to me, I don’t get it. Still.

Here’s a great short essay on the possibility that we’ve already moved to the age of technology being indecipherable:

Given these facts, there is also an endless amount of technology that I depend on every day that I have no idea how it works. Yes, I maintain faith that it will keep working.

The key word here being faith. What I’m starting to notice is that within the last 20 years the rise of science and Big Data has started to chip away at our traditional definition of faith. One can argue that chipping away at the draconian religious structures is a good thing, which I won’t disagree with. But what is alarming and more problematic is that Big Data has also taken a bite out of mysticism. The rise of atheism and lack of mysticism is directly tied into the rise of the age Big Data.

Look at the rise of either religious polling data provided by Gallup since the dawn of the World Wide Web in 1995.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.44.34 PM
 Now look at the rise in Internet usage for the same date range (provided my Internet Live Stats)
Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 5.59.16 PM

Notice the patterns?

The first glaring note is to point out that Internet usage, in and of itself, does not equal a rise in scientific beliefs. But it does represent a broad view of how human society has embraced the age of Big Data and all the tangents that have sprouted off from it. Our humanity now existing in a digital form call the World Wide Web is happening with such great acceptance that one can assume that it is a mass adoption of a scientific way of viewing the world and thus it can make sense for this argument.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that both sets of data, Internet usage and Atheism identification, are rising at the same time. Furthermore as the technological trends morph and adoption rates continue to increase into areas such as nano technology, bio tech and other trans-humanist utopian fantasies we will continue to see more and more people shun the labels of the great religions of yesterday and identify with “nothing” because it’s the only religious label that may fit. It’s the only label that means no mystics, just data.

There is strong evidence, however, that suggests more and more people are identifying with the whole “spiritual but not religious” label but not to the detriment of people still favoring the atheist label instead. That’s another tangent to explore. Certainly, the long term effect of how the whole radical Christian/radical Islam game plays out will have an effect on these data sets over time.

Going back to mysticism and Big Data, it is my hope that our species won’t merely rest on the “facts” that data provides but rather on the manifest of God that can be found in the circuitry that we are creating. For me, the Godhead is taking form in the connectivity that we have invented that takes disguise in the Internet, VR, nano tech and AI. Just as a tree creates an apple, a human creates a computer.

In here somewhere is God working itself out in a way that’s talking to us. We just can’t hear it yet.

And let us not forget the great words of Terrence McKenna  – “There exists a dimension beyond language, it’s just so damn hard to talk about.”

But that’s another post…


I’ve written on this somewhere before, I just can’t remember where or in what form right now.

As I was driving down the coast from Big Sur this morning I reflected on my own personal digital detox that I had the pleasure of undergoing for the previous weekend. Basically I only checked my phone once in three days which for me is extreme. Unless I’m in some far off land or physically unable to my phone, like most of us, has mutated into an appendage.

With great trepidation and cynicism I’ve been checking out what the Digital Detox ( team is doing. My first reaction is one of defensiveness and outright defiance in that these damn dirty hippies are trying to disrupt the train that has already left the station. That they are trying to challenge the nature of progress and creativity by guilt tripping us into getting our feet dirty in the god damn dirt and if we don’t we may loose out on the truly meaningful things in this life. Deeper friendships, connections, inter personal love affairs and fresh air are all things that come to mind. And of course while I’m busy judging the book by its cover and rallying against these extremist antiquarians I am being bombarded with more texts and tweets than a) I can keep up with and b) can sustain my attention in any sort of cognitively sane way. Yes, it’s true that I – like just about everyone else in the western world – is seeing their attention span dissipate into a stream of short sound bytes and only half way real digital connections. The pay off for the short term shift is that my long term neural network based creative potential and inspiration is far more developed than ever before, that – however – is another blog post.

The weirdest part about our digital connections is not that it’s happening but rather, the speed at which we’ve adapted to its happening. I’m at the age where I can remember my adult life pre smart phone and post smart phone. Or pre web and post web. Somehow, I lived life before Google Maps telling me where to go or before a friends text message telling me where and when to meet them. This did happen. Yet, I can’t remember it. No, seriously. I can’t remember.

I can’t remember how day to day life worked just a short 8-20 years ago. This is not to say that my memory has dwindled or that I’m exaggerating the circumstances, neither has occurred. The mutation of how the technology has been chosen, applied and then just accepted is a thing of pure mysticism that is found within the human condition. Yes, these mutations have happened before – from the Guttenberg press all the way through the advent and subsequent mass adoption of TV – we are very quick to embrace the new stuff and quickly discard the old.

There is something different about personal digital technology that can’t quite be put into the same category as the others – partially due to the peer-to-peer connective tissue, the rapid acceleration of the thoughts and ideas and the simplicity and grace that is found within the UI. It’s easy to get sucked in and quite frankly the laziest most introverted troll on the planet can have skin in the game. We’ve mutated fast. So fast that I’m of the mind to suggest that it’s a natural evolution and may in face be a form of some quasi warped blend of spirituality and purpose driven destiny. On a good day. On a bad day, it’s the end of the world. It’s us being sucked into a black hole where there is no more empathy or compassion, just social media driven justice and cold hearted hellos. Somewhere in between is the truth.

Back to last weekend. With just two and one half short days off from the digi-drome I did indeed remember how it used to be. It came flashing back to me in little bits complete with euphoric recalls of pay phones and note pads.

Then I got lost and needed Goolge Maps. My notifications were not off. Sigh. The cycle repeats.

6 rules to make Facebook a better place

6 rules to make Facebook a better place. Brought you to you by me, of course.

1.) Limit Self Promotion – a little is cool but use a FB fan page if all you want to do is promote yourself. Otherwise it degrades the qualitative aspect of Facebook. Ok, we get it. You’re going out on another audition. Awesome.

2.) Reciprocity – like and comment on other peoples stuff too. Just don’t use FB as your own personal megaphone without engaging in the bigger cultural conversation.

3.) Disrupt the algorithm – alter your own “Filter Bubble”. Read up on the “Filter Bubble” for more on this. But you can’t be objective if all you’re doing is engaging with nothing but liberal stuff. Read and befriend some people who are on the other side. This way FB starts showing you content that may not necessarily be relevant to who you are but you’ll probably find VERY interesting.

4.) Enough cute animal pics and videos – we’re done with that. thanks.

5.) Argue (kindly) – I fail at this, I get involved in way too many FB arguments where I end up being rude to someone. My intentions always start off well though! Anyway, get in a healthy debate on FB often and you’ll see how amazing is that so many good ideas and perspectives can come out of this place.

6.) Post cool stuff – what’s cool to you may not be cool to me, obviously. With that said – post videos, stories and ideas that are you find thought provoking and disruptive. Again, cute cat pics don’t count. Be passionate about what interests you – the militant vegans are good at this, so are the far lefties and the far righties.

iOS 7 and Our Fear of Change

Even more interesting than the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, is how we as a collective are responding to it. In the past the common lens in which we viewed change in our society came in the form of fashion, music, politics, tolerance and industrial advancement. This is still true to some extent but what we’ve now done is added a new layer to how we are experiencing change – cyberspace.

Every time there is a new “major” update to the digital eco systems we spend most of our time in there is always an endless stream of of both public and professional pundit outrage over the changes. Anyone who has been on Facebook for more than three years can certainly attest to it. Go ahead and think about the last time Facebook made a major update to it’s product; chances are you can’t even remember what they were and all that you recall is that you were pretty upset about it. All of the Facebook posts about missing the old Facebook and that Facebook isn’t listening to it’s users were common and nearly everyone came across them in their newsfeed. Fast forward three years and Facebook’s stock is at an all time high, it’s user base is massive and once again no one can recall what those changes were.

Enter iOS 7. Apple, more than any other company, has the feverish rabid zeal of a dedicated user base that’s akin to a blood thirsty dog getting a bone. Every single move the company makes is up for tremendous scrutiny while products continue to fly off the shelf. It’s as if the dog loves to bark at the person feeding him.

If I was CEO of Apple I for one would constantly be laughing while resting assured on Steve’s philosophical blueprint he laid out for the company. I’d also go back time and again to the answer Henry Ford gave when asked about why he never asked his customers what they wanted; “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

In the world of technology of course it’s important to pay attention to what people do and don’t like about certain trends but it’s also paramount to remember we are at the dawn of the movement and no one knows what’s around the corner. Things mutate almost organically and without logic.

The most fascinating aspect of peoples reaction to iOS 7 is not the dismissal of the new color scheme, or the “swhooshes” and “blips”, it is the admission that such protest of these changes completely changes their day to day world. We live in the operating systems of today. iOS 7, OS X, Windows, Android, Facebook, etc have all become inextricably linked with our practical behavior. It’s not the sending of the email that’s important anymore, it’s the how we send the email that is important. Finally after nearly two decades of mass adoption how the interface for cyberspace looks has become just as important as the function itself.

Steve Jobs knew this long before most. He preached that design, both hard and soft, WAS the product and that they could not be separated. Apple always had in it’s DNA a belief that what you’re experiencing while you are “doing” is just as important as the “doing” itself.

Arguably, the traces of this product philosophy can go back to the counter culture movement of the 1960’s. Anyone who has taken any psychedelic or practiced any type of meditation knows that how the human mind interfaces with consciousness is at the core of happiness. Are we approaching life through a hyper kinetic disorganized system that is laden with fear and distrust? Or are we floating through life with peace, compassion and focus of mind and body?

The same can be said to our digital lives – are we spending time debugging our broken computer and navigating through endless windows of dialog boxes? Or are we accomplishing our digital tasks with grace and ease?

This, without really saying it, is why people get so worked up about the changes in their favorite operating systems? It’s so vital that they are easy to use and require a hassle free relationship. Whether or not you believe this to be true, one thing is for certain – you won’t even remember what iOS 6 looked like a month from now.

Nano Technology, Consciousness and the Divine

Thanks to Elijah Allan-Blitz for making me aware of this TED Talk. Juan Enirquez paints a very succinct history of the universe and moves into the how our species can evolve via nano technology and the understanding of our gene pool.

This brings up many questions. When you realize how small we are in the cosmic scheme of things how do we then define consciousness? And what is the brains relationship to consciousness? Is consciousness everything in the cosmos and our brain just an access point? Also, is the human brain a one of a kind creation, a blip in the matrix, that actually allows us to become aware that we’re aware? If not, then how and where did that ability come from?

We’ve, in fact, become so aware of our precarious unsustainable nature that we are actually creating technologies that could allow us to “upgrade” our bodies and minds. As far as we know, no other current or prior species on planet Earth has been able to actually change the normal cycles of life, death and intelligence to actually become a better version. Think System 7.0 to OSX. Are we in fact changing our evolutionary cycle or is this in fact the natural order of things and we are just figuring it out?

I lean towards the notion that just maybe THIS is the natural order of things! Have we been graced by such grand intelligent instruction from the divine that we can actually change or organic nature and thus change the course of our evolution? As the video shows the roots of our species has actually upgraded over time again and again and again. Surely, the ultimate and most efficient human has yet to exist, yes? This is a physical manifestation of consciousness that I believe the divine is granting us. I believe the Divine or God or the Cosmic One is telling us to figure this stuff out so we can a) live longer and b) be smarter, more loving, compassionate thus stopping this cycle insanity that we currently find ourself in. It’s certainly one solution and we may be able to get there before we blow ourselves up (what a buzz kill that would be.)

While we are doing the inner work it’s also important to embrace our current incarnations and take advantage of the great tools we have at our disposable like nano technology or the mapping of the human genome and the effects that has on our daily life. There are so many methods we’ve been given already so why not add science? Science is indeed a spiritual practice if we just change our thinking. If we now know that there is one gene that created blue eyes is there a gene yet to be mutated that creates world peace and unconditional love? Or is the latter entirely an inside job? Are they mutually exclusive?

This video primarily deals with the rapid acceleration of these technologies and our potential future, but I want to start considering spiritual relationships within these improved conditions. Our brains are continuing to improve beyond ways that we can even imagine. While that’s happening, I think there’s a nice cozy place where science and spirituality can live together.


Shiny Objects

This past week, I like many others, relished in the news of Apple’s latest addition to it’s iPad product line. I’ve been on an iPad 1 for some time so I was comfortable and resolute in my immediate pre-order purchase of the latest iPad. Firmly into the 21st Century we are now walking hand in hand with the most mind boggling innovation cycle in the history of man combined with some very stark realities on how the demand for this innovation is met.

The death of Steve Jobs solidified one the most jarring juxtapositions of our time. On one hand, if you are a believer in Steves accomplishments (like I am), you are in awe at the way he fused the arts with science to create the worlds most valuable and influential technology company. Apple has created a product line that revolutionizes the way we communicate, create and take in information. The world will never be the same. On the other hand, there is something troubling about the make shift shrines that were erected outside of Apple retail stores upon Steves death. Here we have this counter culture acid-head rebel being worshipped outside of a store that sells products for thousands of dollars. Look up irony on the dictionary.

Long before the iPhones release in June of 2007 I lusted after the shiny objects that Apple made. The effect that these products had on my life not only entertained me but also helped me to define my own creative voice. To be honest, I’m not so sure that I’d have a career in the digital arts if it weren’t for the early inspiration that the two Steve’s brought me. However, like any good robot consumer I consumed these products without the slightest notion or curiosity as to where they came from or how they were made. It was like the magic Apple fairies just made these shiny little boxes in the North Pole. I never thought to connect the dots that oil was used to make the plastic casing or that actual people would need to be used to put these things together.

Mike Daisey, the performer and writer of the explosive New York play “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” said to Playbill:

“We live in denial about China: a relationship that so disturbs us that we pretend our devices are made in magical Willy Wonka-esque factories by space elves instead of the real human cost we all know in our hearts has been paid. This moment is an opportunity to peel back the surface and get at the secret heart of our relationship with Steve Jobs, his devices, our labor, and China itself.”

The history of supply chains and the manufacturing process that feeds them is quite complex. The industrial revolution gave birth to the America we know today and put America at the forefront of innovation. America was suddenly fused together with the ability to capitalize on that innovation by creating an assembly line that supported the massive demand for the new products. That assembly line gave way to a low cost streamlined way of making products that accomplished two things: jobs for the working class and reasonably priced goods that the same working class could afford to use or by. It was a dream scenario. Products and services were made and fed by each other in the same system of supply and demand.

Take this example (via WikiPedia) of Andrew Carnegie’s significant accomplishments:

One of his two great innovations was in the cheap and efficient mass production of steel by adopting and adapting the Bessemer process for steel making. Sir Henry Bessemer had invented the furnace which allowed the high carbon content of pig iron to be burnt away in a controlled and rapid way. The steel price dropped as a direct result, and was rapidly adopted for railway lines and girders for buildings and bridges.

If you follow the bouncing ball you can see how this single act created a domino effect that changed our lives. Cheap steel gave way to railroad expansion which gave way to freedom of movement and physical growth around the country. Steel cores gave way to skyscrapers and later on to automobile production. And so on and so on, you get the idea.

The same logic can be applied to the products that Apple products have had on the West. There are millions examples of how the personal home computer gave power back to the individual and fostered a creative revolution. Early on in Apples formative years many of the products were made in the US. It’s almost hard to imagine now given that the global manufacturing climate has changed so much.

Ok, so what changed? In the late 20th century, de-regulation grew and combined with new international free trade polices that gave companies the ability to make their products much cheaper than they had been made before. This meant outsourcing to the cheapest bidder, mainly China. This eliminated America’s ability to both create and supply products for the middle class. What rose in the background were millions of workers who made these products in what we now refer to as “sweatshops.” We now know that every single Apple product is made in an environment that overworks the employees, underpays them by American standards and stresses them out to the point that even suicide has been an option.

Who’s to blame here? Is it the player of the game or the game itself? Or both? And, we have to ask ourselves honestly: is the Apple tarnished?

In Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs”, he conveniently skips over Apples transition from American factories to Chinese factories in favor of focussing on Steve Jobs, the person. However, in the middle chapters he does give light to Steve’s obsession with Apple’s early factory lines in Northern California. Steve was obsessed with the way they physically looked and operated drawing off the notion that if any part of the products DNA was compromised then the whole product would be compromised. I can’t imagine that Steve took the same care to aesthetic perfection in the Chinese factories.

So how do we change this? Many far left liberals are calling on Apple to stop the whole practice all together. Let’s look at some harsh realities with that notion. Apple is a publicly traded company therefore, it’s main goal is to turn a profit which then keeps the stock price high and investors happy. Using todays math under the current rules of the game, if Apple were to engage on the popular grassroots campaign that’s being called “make the iPhone 5 ethically”, profits would fall, the stock would plummet and the same people that green lit the “ethical iPhone 5” campaign would get fired. A core pillar of Apples profit center has come from a miracle supply chain story that is rooted in cheap manufacturing in China that can keep margins high while meeting the worlds obsessive product demands. Therefore, making the iPhone 5 in America under American employment standards is not option under the current model.

Next, when China opened it’s doors to the outside much of their reason for doing so came from a place of “look, we have one billion people here who are ready to work. bring us jobs.” This thinking immediately took China out of a rural migrant farm worker culture to that of pollution filled urban sprawl that has seemingly countless numbers of people who are willing to work for very little money on products that they can not afford to buy. China was desperate to jump into the modern world and this was a ticket to the party. The simultaneous deregulation of global business synced up perfectly with this new panacea of cheap labor. You had global companies, like Apple, that wanted to increase it’s profits and you have a country that has the work force and desire to become a global super power. Both set of mutually exclusive goals were accomplished. What happened in the space between was not thought through or possibly even considered.

For the most part I am a believer in the Global Village and that the more communication brings us together the more borders disappear and we become connected to each others challenges and triumphs. What happens in China is not so far away anymore that it can be ignored. The philosophical view of how humanity can operate as a collective conscious is valid and necessary as our population grows and as the challenges of the modern world become more apparent. Now, as we strive for a new world paradigm we are however caught in the grips of an old world order that we also can not ignored.

What can be done in a reasonable manner about the person who works at the sweat shop making iPads? And what can done to not judge the employer, in this case Apple, who is playing by the rules? China itself has done very little to regulate worker conditions. No one is forcing these Chinese workers to take these jobs at FoxConn, in fact these jobs are in very high demand. Potential new workers line up by the thousands to try and get a new job at FoxConn. The Chinese cultural view on stable employment is so different than ours that it’s hard for us to understand the context which immediately leads us to blaming and judging. Add to that, any CEO of a public company is burdened with turning a profit for their company so making stuff in China is a good idea for the books. The point is that the game is rigged and there’s no way to win. I’m not endorsing Apples treatment of workers. It pains me to play with my iPad knowing that these young Chinese workers were eating poor food and sleeping in these cramped dorms when assembling this beautiful device.

There aren’t too many options that could fix this but there are a couple. China would need to collapse from their highly leveraged market and the balance of manufacturing power would once again shift. Or the throngs of Chinese workers could uprise organically and demand better conditions and pay and form a union. The latter is most likely and even a hopeful outcome. Doubling Chinese worker pay is actually reasonable, probable and would keep Apple still very profitable. If you’re wondering, moving the manufacturing to US based factories is not an option. That ship sailed quite some time ago. Let it go.

This post is more about observation that solutions. To me, it’s fascinating and impossible to ignore that this very MacBookPro I’m writing this blog with is tainted with the pains of the human spirit being pushed too far.

About a month ago, Nightline was granted unprecedented exclusive access to the FoxConn Apple manufacturing plan (link below). Reporter Bill Weir drops a bomb of a soundbite at the end which is, for better or for worse, true; “In our current world you can either be the country that makes this stuff or the country that lines up to buy this stuff but you can’t be both.”

If you choose to blame Apple and to take a stand then you have to take a stand on all Chinese exports. That means you wouldn’t a single piece of electronic equipment in your home or automobile. Do any of you see yourself doing that? If you choose to single out Apple because they have brilliantly exploited a flawed rule book then you are blaming the player and not the game. Apple is experiencing what’s called “The Nike Effect.” They are not the only company making their products this way. They are merely the most iconic brand doing it. “Think Different” has been stamped in our psyche so deeply that it’s hard to make sense of the contradiction.

I will continue to live in both worlds. Simultaneously I’ll be be troubled about these worker conditions in China while I continue to purchase the devices. It is my hope that we can do both while bringing awareness to the issue that may come up with a better solution. Long term, it’s great that Apple has been singled out because the amount of global attention it brings to matter is valuable. Awareness is a good first step. For most of us, it’s too late to turn back from how these innovations have effected our lives. They are part of the fabric. I don’t see too many of us lining up to stop buying electronics. The harsh realities of how these products made are now part of the fabric and the ever growing juxtaposition of the modern world. I believe with enough exposure and openness about the issues we can find a solution that pleases all sides.

Watch Nightline get exclusive access to Apples iPad and iPhone factory, click here

SOPA vs. The Mash Up Generation

A piece ran in Slate the other day that proclaimed passing SOPA would lead to an economic and social disaster. Click here to read that post.

It’s a fantastic look at how the socia-economic sensibilities have changed considerably in the last decade and the movement of copyright infringement has helped to shape this brave new world. I disagree with the overly simplistic view that states that the entertainment industries revenue has not been offset from online piracy. It is a fact that the record sales are down 60% in the last decade. One might argue that’s a good thing – the scam of charging $18 for a full length record that’s only 20% good was akin to forcing you to go into Disneyland with only 2 or 3 of the rides working. Now, the consumer can choose to buy as much or as little of an album as they want. And there is direct proof that if the whole album is good, people will buy it. Quality rises to the top and people respond. Refer to Adelle or Mumford and Sons for evidence of that. Of course there’s another, somewhat more complicated, side. In today’s media savvy world there’s a whole generation that simply types in “Mediafire Mumford and Sons” into Google to acquire new music. Easy. Two or three clicks and it’s done.

Some experts say the psychological subtly that a music file is only a few megabytes and is so easily shared (stolen) that it really doesn’t amount to stealing in the first place. It’s just sharing your stuff with your friends. It’s the same as viewing a non authorized video on YouTube or borrowing a book like the Slate piece talks about. Most people under 25 would say this is true, digital music feels intangible thus it doesn’t hold any concrete place in the material world. It’s just a file that can be passed on over and over again. The thought doesn’t even occur to most kids that effort and money went into producing said file and thus it does actually hold monetary value. All true but I think it goes deeper than that.

If we look back at the previous few decades they all have a very concrete stamp on how they can be defined. The 60’s were a time of social unrest and revolution, the 70s were groovy and had disco, the 80s were the MTV generation and the 90s had grunge and the birth of the web. Each era can be very succinctly defined. Can the same be said of the 2000’s? Sort of but not really.

The 2000s saw the rise of the iPod, Facebook and YouTube. Those are certainly three pilars that this generation can be proud of and no doubt forever changed the way we live. However, take a look at the core value that each one of those three products has to offer. The iPod allows you to store tons of the aforementioned intangible digital files of music that inherently encourages you to just plug your iPod into a friends computer and go wild taking whatever you want. Facebook is a tool that has changed the way we communicate and stay in touch but it’s also largely a forum for people to share other peoples content that they love without thinking about it. How many times a week do I see a rare Pink Floyd clip posted over and over again? Lots. And then there’s YouTube – the mothership of them all. YouTube has essentially created a cultural conversation that is based on the mash-up. People taking others peoples work and slicing it up into new work. It’s a blender of cultural vernacular, music, iconic images, acting without any SAG card and all around power to the people creativity. That’s what the 2000’s was – it was the decade for mashing-up and sharing stuff that moves us. It’s defined this generation.

The 1990’s gave rise to this anarchic uncontrollable giant of the World Wide Web. It, accidentally, became the last free dimension where there is no police force and is completely egalitarian. SOPA would add a layer to this that is so contrary to it’s DNA that it would disrupt what can not be disrupted. Additionally, to me more importantly, it would change the cultural conversation that made the 2000s (and now the 2010’s) so great. Our favorite viral videos would be subject to government regulation. Blogs could not freely publish half of what they do. Girl Talk could not make his genius albums and most of all the kids could not simply share the stuff they love and make into their own cultural statement. SOPA would start a war with an entire generation that has made mash-ups and the appropriation of content into a unique voice all their own.

I understand that the entertainment business is scared of lost revenue and needs to react to that somehow. I don’t have a point of view on that. But I do know that the music business, particularly the musicians, are going to go through a radical shift in their place in society. A friend of mine and I often talk about how modern society will hold a place for the professional musician from here on out. We think that todays musician will go back to their roots of how it used to be. I don’t mean how it used to be in the 1950s. I mean how it used to be in the 1890s. The musician will once again become the village bard that expresses our core emotions simply because they have no choice. They will once again become the story tellers who are passing on myths of the generation simply because their dharma calls for it. Very few will now do it for the seductive draw of money and fame. Surely there will still be a few of those but mostly todays musician will contribute into the modern tech laden social mash-up because it’s a damn good thing to do. The economic model how to make it as a musician still needs some things answered but the sentiment of this modern world of free roaming content will be a good thing in the long run.

Apple tid bit

Michael Dell on what he would do with Apple in 1996 “”What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Dell now has a $25.82 billion capitalization, with sad sales and margins. Apple is now at $338.39 billion, with insane sales, profits and margins. Poor Mickey.