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Back to the days of corporate culture & policy

By slaytanic killer in Media
Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 02:55:36 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Various news sources have articles signalling the return of the old-school corporate days of yore. This Economist op-ed piece seems to support Jim Allchin's statements that government investment in open-sourced software is bad for the country's health and innovation. While the article concentrates on biotech's public vs. private sector fights, the point still applies well to Allchin's comments.


A Register article attempts to tear apart Scott McNealy's recent speech that a strong work-ethic has benefits such as making people "too tired to shoot guns off in the wrong place or do bad things." In his speech, McNealy also points out that in dealing with China, "We've got to not let the human rights and environmental issues clobber the opportunity to make everybody on both sides of the border better off."

Finally, another Economist article points out that the purchasing of suits & ties is on the rise, which seem to serve as an amusing social barometer of corporatism. It ironically points out:
"The suit is the perfect attire for hard economic times. It speaks of seriousness of purpose and self-discipline. It speaks of dullness, too, which is a welcome contrast with the anarchic creativity of the dotcoms."
Happily, the article points out that the suit has not taken over at the Economist, where "freedom of movement is a religion."

Are these just blips on the media radar, which occur every so often? Or are we in the midst of finally deciding the future of science and technology through politics? If this is the case, then perhaps Allchin's statements were exquisitely well-timed and nothing at all to laugh at.

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Back to the days of corporate culture & policy | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 1 hidden)
embarassment (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by Seumas on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:08:19 AM EST

I used to be happy to work for a company who's leader didn't make a complete idiot of himself and did cool stuff. Trashed Microsoft, tried to hire pest-control companies to patrol Microsoft conferences in their bright yellow vans, talked about an intriguing future that we could be proud to be a part of...

Now it seems I might work for someone that makes it very easy for me to sympathize with how Clinton appointees and colleagues must have felt when he was around bonking chicks and makin a dork of himself in the public eye.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

Christ, I hate the economist (4.75 / 12) (#4)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:11:54 AM EST

Some more than usually damnably stupid things from this week's:

However, the genome remains a common heritage. Celera's activities do not stop other people using that public knowledge--and even packaging it for sale in other ways than those done by the firm. Genomes are not inventions and cannot be patented.

So, back in your box, silly little protestors, everything's fine. Except, of course, that companies like Celera are constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be patented, with the support of their cheerleaders like the Economist. It is simply not on to state things in such bald terms when the context is a hugely contentious area of law.

The question of third-world drugs is undeniably more vexed--but impugning the profit motive is a fatuously inadequate answer. If not for the lure of profit, the drugs that Oxfam wants sent to developing countries would not exist in the first place.

Since most of these drugs were in fact developed in charitable foundations and universities, and only later commercially exploited, this is not even true.

Now that the drugs have been developed, it is often argued, the cost of manufacture is, in most cases, much lower than the price charged. This is gouging, the indictment goes on: drug companies could make money even if they sold the drugs much more cheaply. Again, because of profit, the benefits of science are being withheld. Nonsense. Developing drugs is expensive. If companies are to keep trying, they must expect to make enough profit to meet the cost of developing not only the drugs that work, but also the ones that do not.

A quick glance at the relative ratios of marketing expense to R&D expense in the published accounts of any large pharma company would soon disabuse the Economist of this line of argument, but a quick glance is a glance too many when their paymasters need support.

And so on, and so on. grrrr

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Well, when your audience is evil... (2.83 / 6) (#5)
by error 404 on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:30:34 AM EST

what are you going to do? Offend them by pointing it out?

Heh. Too tired to shoot. Yeah, people go postal from being too well-rested and happy. Riiiight.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

When your audience doesn't mind being told... (none / 0) (#22)
by mdavids on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 07:11:37 PM EST

Actually I find the general rule is quite the opposite. The media read by those high up in corporate big govenment is generally pretty honest. I've read stuff in the business press (in Australia) that would get you sacked in a daily tabloid. Their columnists are quite free to say, for example, that the government and big business are waging an unrelenting class war against the general population. Satirical (and very critical) "How to de-unionise your workforce" pieces make the front page, that sort of thing.

You can say those things when your audience either feels, "yes, this is all terrible, but it's for the greater good", "there is no alternative", or "so I'm out for number one - sue me". The fact is, these people run the world, and they need a realistic picture of what's going on.

The Economist is kind of a mongrel. It's opinion pages resemble the output of the PR agencies, thinktanks, institutes, roundtables,and so on: blind devotion to "the invisible hand", "a rising tide lifts all boats", that kind of claptrap That's the stuff you cut-and-paste into your PR releases (and undergraduate economics courses). On the other hand, it's news section is full of stories that concede "a rising tide lifts all boats, except this particular one".



[ Parent ]
Cool (1.00 / 1) (#23)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Feb 27, 2001 at 06:22:44 AM EST

No-one's ever called me evil before :)



Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
hilarity (4.57 / 7) (#6)
by anonymous cowerd on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:46:50 AM EST

...If not for the lure of profit, the drugs that Oxfam wants sent to developing countries would not exist in the first place.

Yeah, you betcha. History demonstrates this. It was, after all, the lust for gelt and nothing at all else, which compelled Fleming to develop penicillin, or Pasteur to attempt to cure rabies, or Jenner to attack and defeat smallpox. Why, aside from the love of money, what other motivation could any man possibly have for anything at all?

Listen to these pricks! I know that's the party line, but I could swear they actually inwardly believe the tripe they write. Talk about self-hypnosis! It's like imagining a money-makin' TV preacher who actually believes in the existence of "God." If it weren't all so dire you'd have to laugh out loud.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

Flemming didn't develop penicillin (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by Paul Johnson on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 05:55:37 AM EST

Flemming noticed that a mold produced something which had anti-bacterial properties. The real work of drug development was done by Florey and a team, using techniques and practices which by modern standards were very slap-dash, but were all that the UK could afford in the middle of a world war. Application of similar standards would later lead to the Thalidomide disaster.

As for Jenner, his primary experiment involved deliberatly exposing a child to Smallpox to see if the immunisation worked!

There is no getting around the fact that bringing a new drug to market takes years and costs many millions of pounds. At any stage you may hit a road block which means you have to write off the entire investment. Developing drugs and getting them into people without patent protection and marketing just isn't on, and if you think differently then I'd really like to see you prove me wrong.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

suits (3.11 / 9) (#7)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:47:15 AM EST

I think the topic of suits has been debated to death before...

--em

slashdot? (3.40 / 5) (#10)
by Spendocrat on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:43:55 AM EST

What is slashdot... is it a site I should be reading daily, so I don't have to repeat discussions there here on K5, a site I actualy read?

I didn't know there was a body of prerequisite sites to read before coming to K5, perhaps you could furnish me with a comprehensive list? I wouldn't want to inconvenience the rest of you by being redundant.

[ Parent ]

why don't you *look* at the link before you judge? (3.33 / 3) (#12)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 03:02:42 PM EST

gee, lay down on the sarcasm, and *read* the posts I link to, dammit. They're funny.

--em
[ Parent ]

LOL (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by Spendocrat on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 03:23:43 PM EST

Well, shit. Mea culpa.

I almost wish you had been serious, that was a pretty decent flame.

[ Parent ]

Two suits for the price of one! (4.12 / 8) (#8)
by Beorn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:48:48 AM EST

"The suit is the perfect attire for hard economic times. It speaks of seriousness of purpose and self-discipline. It speaks of dullness, too, which is a welcome contrast with the anarchic creativity of the dotcoms."

Yeah, this sums it up well I think. The suit, (like school uniforms), is an equalizer and a symbol of work ethics, but at the expense of individualism. Like any self-respecting nerd I have a personal vendetta against the damn thing, but I see why some professions take it so seriously.

As for the accuracy of The Economist, which somebody attacked below, Andrew Sullivan has an interesting article debunking it. They have a lot of good articles, but they can be awfully smug, and I think their self esteem needs an adjustment or two.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

The Economist Op-Ed (4.62 / 8) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 11:52:56 AM EST

That Op-Ed doesn't really support the sort of thing that Alchin is talking about. It certainly doesn't imply that public efforts be banned...

Though as other's mentioned below, the Op-Ed has huge problems. When I read it in the first place last-week (I subscribe because sadly, that's one of the few places you can get decent news reporting in the US) the flaw was glaring. They equate applied science with science for profit, as if those two things are inevitiably the same thing. What is worse, they don't even seem to notice that the two examples of applied science bringing good they start with were two guys who did the science because they wanted to help people, not because they wanted to drive up stock prices.

That's the saddest thing. It isn't that we live under a capitalistic system. It is that we live in a system where people only think about money. Despite the rhetoric, those are not the same thing.

As far as McNealy's comments about China, well, he needs to have a chat with this guy. I find it sad that some are so intent on bashing Gates (who certainly deserves it) that they fail to see that the difference between him and people like McNealy and Ellison is only one of skill and luck.

And finally, the whole "suit and tie" thing cracks me up. If anything, it means exactly the opposite of what they seem to think it means. It means that people are becoming more concerned with appearance and thus less concerned with things like skill and effort.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Corporate identity (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by Aquarius on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 12:02:26 AM EST

I imagine that a fair proportion of corporations would love a return to the old days, where employees lived and breathed the Company, and staff weren't transient. We've moved away from that somewhat; a job is no longer a job for life, and I don't think most people feel the extreme loyalty to their company that they used to, years ago. Of course, I've got no evidence for this.

It'd be naive to suggest that politics never had an effect on science and technology -- I''d venture to suggest that the suppression of Galileo was an example -- but these things do seem to be becoming more overt as time goes on. The traditional "cyberpunk" vision of nation-states being controlled entirely by corporate interests isn't here, and I have no intention of suggesting that it is, or that it nearly is, but it seems to me that corporate interests seem to have shifted from influencing their employees (by having employees dedicate their life to the company) to influencing everyone (by taking a stronger voice in government). As each day passes, I get the impression that more governmental initiatives are either for the benefit of corporate interests or undertaken in partnership with those same interests; in the UK, there are practically no nationalised industries left, for example. This increasing willingness on the part of at least the UK government to hand off responsibility for maintaining various things to unelected companies who are responsible to their shareholders rather than the public at large is perhaps an example of what you meant, although in a wider and more nebulous way.

Aq.

"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" -- Ronin, Frank Miller
When is a suit not a suit? (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 11:54:43 AM EST

"The suit is the perfect attire for hard economic times. It speaks of seriousness of purpose and self-discipline. It speaks of dullness, too, which is a welcome contrast with the anarchic creativity of the dotcoms."
So in an environment where suits are virtually never worn and the uniform de jour is blue jeans and tee shirts, how does wearing a suit speak of dullness?

Anyone that criticizes the wearing of a suit as limiting self-expression and of conformity has a very limited imagination.

Examples; the world rarely works perfectly linear (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 12:26:03 PM EST

As an example, John Chambers, Cisco CEO is notorious for wearing a blue suit, a habit he picked up at IBM. At the same time, he sees the humor in it, since his company often promotes heterogenty. So obviously it's pointless to blindly label people as dull for their dress.

However, it still remains that the use and effect of suits are to increase conformity and reduce avenues of self-expression. At best, it increases focus and sharpens the mind, while communicating that you are very, very serious. I've personally worn dress clothes to great effect. At worst and perhaps on average, it stifles to hopefully good effect. It communicates things that are not about pure thought on the problem at hand, and these stylish side-effects can sometimes take away focus on making intelligent decisions.

[ Parent ]
Background and replies (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 12:41:43 PM EST

There have been posts below which question the connection between Allchin's statements and the article where biotech firms wish the gov't to decrease public funding of biotech research, since competition innovates more efficiently and cheaply overall.

Allchin's statements were in a policy context: Should open-source projects be funded by the government? His answer was No, since it takes away the whole point of corporate innovation and the world will be stuck with systems which plod along in terms of features. The best & brightest will leave the field of technology and go elsewhere to find their fortunes.

After all, Microsoft is in the business of acquiring minds with cash. They should certainly know.

This point is nothing new. I do not have my copy of Knuth's Digital Typography with me, but within he relates an incident about the early years of TeX, his (then) innovative package that allows people to create beautiful books with a computer, rather than spend decades on the mechanics of the art. There was another package that was being sold commercially, and its owner complained heatedly to the NSF that the government was acting in direct opposition to his business. Knuth felt very guilty when he eventually learned about this (his work lead directly to the destruction of a person's business), but at that point there was really nothing to do but keep it free.

Back to the days of corporate culture & policy | 23 comments (17 topical, 6 editorial, 1 hidden)
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