Monthly Archives: April 2012

Chicken Little is getting acid-rained on

Water. It’s the Earth’s most valuable resource. Our cities are powered by it, agriculture and other industries depend on it, and all living things need it to survive. But instead of treating it with care, we’ve allowed it to become polluted with toxic chemicals and agricultural and industrial waste. And it’s very possible that in the near future, there won’t be enough to sustain life on the planet.

That’s the synopsis for Last Call At The Oasis, a documentary. Goodness, what a bunch of alarmist hyperbole. True, more people than ever before don’t have access to clean drinking water, but it’s also true that more people than ever before *do* have access to clean drinking water (because the population of the planet is growing).

I think it’s good that alarmists like this exist, because without them we might not work as hard as we do to minimize our impact on the planet, but to say that it’s “…possible that in the near future, there won’t be enough to sustain life on the planet,” is extreme. Do they mean that some people will die for lack of clean water? That happens every day, and has been for thousands of years. Or do they mean that *all* people could die for lack of clean water? I’m happy to call BS on that. So do they mean that vast numbers of people could die for lack of clean water — like millions, or even billions? That seems like they’re just trying to entice me to drop $10 to argue with the screen in the theater.


How Computers Are Creating a Second Economy Without Workers – Bill Davidow – Business – The Atlantic

The Gross Domestic Product for the United States in 2011 was around $15 trillion. There are a little over 130 million non-farm employees. So each worker adds a little over $100,000 to the domestic output. The numbers are quite different for a Google employee. Google has a little more than 32,000 employees and its $38 billion in revenues means it generates about $1.2 million per employee. The numbers are similar for Facebook.

Walmart has some two million employees, and annual sales of around $200 billion. Given that many work part-time, I figure that the company has sales of around $100,000 per employee. With 56,000 employees in 2011, Amazon generated a little over $800,000 per employee.

Here’s the challenge: In the past, every million-dollar increase in economic output generated on the order of ten jobs. In the future, in the productive Second Economy, it may generate only one or two.

Ugh. That last paragraph is really annoying. Consider if you turn it around: In the past, each new job generated roughly $100,000 of value to the economy. In the coming computer-based economy, each new job will generate from $500,000 to $1,000,000 of value. I will grant that there is a problem figuring out how to handle job losses due to increasing use of technology, but this has been a significant problem since at least the onset of mechanized agriculture. You can say that it’s easy for me to say because I’m employed, but still, I’d rather live in a world where a worker has the potential to produce 5x to 10x over what they produced thirty or forty years ago.

The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs – Harvard Business Review

His saga is the entrepreneurial creation myth writ large: Steve Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976, was ousted in 1985, returned to rescue it from near bankruptcy in 1997, and by the time he died, in October 2011, had built it into the world’s most valuable company. Along the way he helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing. He thus belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators, along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. None of these men was a saint, but long after their personalities are forgotten, history will remember how they applied imagination to technology and business.

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

—Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997

It seems a little silly to repeatedly cite Steve Jobs, but he is one of the greatest business leaders of recent times, and there are several good points in here. Some of them aren’t really leadership points, but nevertheless, good stuff.