A very funny story is brewing in Hollywood. As we know, Hollywood is very, very concerned about piracy. But was Hollywood actually created by … pirates? Torrent Freak tells the tale for you.
Archive for May 12th, 2012
“Memes are the instruments with which we play music. The way things are going, we’re going to lose our song.”
In case you are wondering exactly what a “meme” is, Wikipedia offers this
A meme ( //; MEEM)) is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures. (footnotes omitted)
From Rome to Wall Street to Silicon Valley to Washington in a single post? Fasten your seat belt! Here we go!
First stop Rome - Julius Caesar is largely remembered for his military career and his rather nasty end. But there are other sides to his life that you might find interesting. Glenn Greenwald reports for Salon on one story where he argued in the Senate for clemency for traitors. The lesson from the story still resonates: institutions are fragile and the risk of setting bad precedent is huge.
Building our time machine - This idea of precedent is rather interesting. It is a great stabilizer, of course. You might have heard, for example, that adherence to precedent it is the great anchor that stabilizes common law systems. It is so important that lawyers use an impressive sounding Latin phrase for it (stare decisis). But there is a problem here. There is both good precedent and not so good precedent. Accepting that we value precedent as a general matter (making it difficult to change), how do we weed out the bad apples?
Turning on the motor - Caesar argued that we should avoid getting carried away by the passions of the moment that corrupt our core values. Good advice. This serves us well in moments of crisis when we have core values to embrace. But what if adhering to bad precedents is leading us to crisis? How do we correct mistakes before the house comes crashing down? In other words, how do w tidy up our core values? BTW, something that the great Caesar arguably tried and failed to do in Rome, which led to his murder.
The only way out is to develop and use tools for testing precedent. In law, we rely on legal argument. In science, we rely on scientific method. And what about in business? Business argument? Business method?
Next step, Wall Street - That is a nasty question. You may still be reeling (as I am) from the news of JP Morgan’s sudden trading loss of $2 billion. Oops. All in a day’s work? I think not. Our financial system cannot absorb sudden shocks like that as a routine matter. Nor should taxpayers be expected to routinely bail out overly exuberant and too big to fail bankers. Oops. We just did that, didn’t we? It was a bad precedent. So how did we get stuck with it?
Onward to Silicon Valley - See what I mean? Working with precedents is tricky stuff. I suspect that we need to go back to basics and re-examine the core values that brought us to this situation. One is our faith in the rationality of risk taking inside the big banks. Perhaps another is our worship of the big transaction. The big deal, whether it is a big trade or an IPO. This worship may distract us from the stabilizing value of a lot of little deals. I posted about this yesterday in the context of sales (shooting cannonballs or bullets). It also can be applied to product and service iterations. Wired reports on how this works in the tech industry.
Last stop, Washington D.C. - So where do we start this re-examination? Good question. It should be part of the Washington routine. Sadly, we accepted the precedent long ago that big corporations — and not just the banks — have the biggest say in Washington policy making. Ooops.
FOLLOW - Now that the trip is over, perhaps a moment of reflection. Ambrose Bierce offers a rather dark view of legal precedent
“In Law, a previous decision, rule or practice which, in the absence of a definite statute, has whatever force and authority a Judge may choose to give it, thereby greatly simplifying his task of doing as he pleases. As there are precedents for everything, he has only to ignore those that make against his interest and accentuate those in the line of his desire. Invention of the precedent elevates the trial-at-law from the low estate of a fortuitous ordeal to the noble attitude of a dirigible arbitrament.” — Ambrose Bierce