Steven Paul Jobs would have been 59 today. Future generations remember us by the legacy we leave behind. Jobs’ legacy was set in stone in 1984. He could have stopped there, but he didn’t. In 2001, he released the iPod. In the following years, he could have stopped as well. It may be easy to forgot now, but everybody wanted an iPod. It was hip and cool and the white headphones will forever be immortalized in pop culture. But, he didn’t stop with the iPod. He made the iPhone. The remarkable thing is this new legacy killed his prior legacy. Who in this day and age wants an iPod? Screw music, we want iPhones. We want to talk, to share, to be heard.
Most people will stop with one legacy. They’ll do everything to protect it. To make sure it stays relevant for years to come. Not Steve. Fuck the past, the known, the legacy. It doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is what else he could do to be different. There’s a lesson about how to live your life in this story.
The San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA), an association for registered taxi drivers that promotes fair working conditions and business practice, reports that one-third of the 8,500 or so taxi drivers in San Francisco – over 2,800 – have ditched driving a registered cab in the last 12 months to drive for a private transportation startup like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar instead.
Read that again. One-third. Twelve months. We tend to throw around the term “disruption” way too often these days, basically stripping it of all meaning. But this is actual disruption. And it’s disruption in such a short amount of time that it can truly be felt by all.
I’ve been thinking about the new Spike Jonze film Her quite a bit recently. I really enjoyed it when I saw it last week, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s one of those films that sticks with you and grows in your head. The best kind of film, in my opinion.
When I first heard the premise of the movie, it raised some obvious red flags. A guy falls in love with his Siri-like operating system. Oh boy. Assuming the plot wasn’t a joke being spread to obfuscate the real plot, the liklihood of such a film falling flat on its face seemed very high. Hollywood is generally incompetent when it comes to films about technology. And trying to mix emotion with technology sounded like a recipe for a total disaster.
In a Washington Post editorial, Princeton’s Peter Singer helpfully reminds us that the money spent on Batkid in San Francisco last month could’ve more efficiently been used saving or bettering the lives of dozens, if not hundreds of people through the efforts of nonprofit organizations…
The Lost Generation, the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and the Millennials.
How about us? What will the generation of today’s teens be called or characterized by?
Will we be the generation that grew up with gadgets all around us and therefore be always connected? Are we the generation that constantly glares at screens, have earbuds in our ears, and a smartphone in our hands?
That possibility sounds quaint in comparison to the more likely outcome.
We are the ones that will suffer the consequences of the previous generation’s greed and inability to cooperate or compromise to solve the world’s most pressing issues.
We will be the ones forced to deal the with the effects of climate change on the environment as a result of the previous generation’s inability to address the issue of reducing greenhouse gases. Our environment has also been changed for the worse as a result of our consumerist society wanting more and more items without caring about the repercussions it has on our natural resources. Corporations are so focused on making exuberant profits that they do not think or care how their present actions will effect the future generations.
We will be the generation forced to “pay today’s debt.” We are already living in a world of rampant unemployment and college debt. This generation is expected to be the first generation to earn less than our parents.
Definitely much bleaker than being the social generation that is consumed by our smartphones.
I am not content or satisfied with this future.
Nor should you be. We should not be the generation that suffers as a result of the previous generation’s faults. We should not go into life and the world with a burden over our heads. We should strive for something better! We should want more, if not for the very simple reason that we are Capitalists that want more and more. Why should it be limited to material goods? Why should we not want a better future?
Our generation should be the ones who defy all expectations of a bleak future. We should be the ones who use our socialness and tech savviness to change and control our future. We should social media to expose government corruption and corporations that take advantage of people in developing countries and harm the environment. We should us technology to make the world a better place and give a voice to those who don’t have one. We should use technology to solve our big problems and make the world a better place. At the same time, we should find a way to be more successful than our parents and create a much better world than they ever could.
Capitalism is an economic system where the means of production are owned by private individuals and success or failure is determined by the free market.
Therefore, describing capitalism as ethical sounds like an oxymoron. How can the often ravagous pursuit of money, resources, and wealth ever be ethical or moral? Does the world of business not require a certain cutthroat characteristic in order to get ahead and succeed?
And the answer is yes.
Businesses do have a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders. It is a company’s right to accumulate as much money as possible for, ideally, the shareholder. However, that is not always the case. We see human greed want the wealth for themselves and as a results take dangerous risks.
This mindset needs to stop, it needs to adapt. Companies live within the realm of this world and it is not a zero-sum world. A company does not exist in a vacuum. It, and the people who work for it, cannot disregard the community and, more broadly, the world that it is a part of. Businesses need to care for something more than just profit before the people get upset with abuse after abuse of money by the rich and rebel. Before people question what the purpose of all this wealth is. The culture of business needs to change on their own volition before they are forced to do things they may not want to. What if people and companies take risks for something more than just personal gain? We need people to care for more than their self interests. We need shareholders to care for more than just profit, but also care about the world. We need greed to be used for good and change, not just profit. I call this ethical capitalism.
The technology industry serves as a poster child and case study for how capitalism can be ethical for a number of reasons.
At its most basic, the point of technology is to use knowledge and tools to solve a problem. Technology is meant to help and improve the lives of people all around the world. For this reason, the goal of a technology company is to already cause change. This culture of change starts at the top. It starts with the founders and it helps the wave of companies changing the world are still run by their original founders. Many are still young and want to leave a mark on the world. [One can call and see this as a form of greed and legacy building.]
One case study is Google. Their long stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google is a company known for its moonshot projects: from bringing internet access to rural and remote areas via balloons to extending the human lifespan. In the present, those projects seem very crazy, but so did the idea of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful in 1996. Today, everybody knows and uses a search engine on a daily basis. Google’s projects whose goals are to provide internet access to the entire world may seem very costly and far from profitable, but that is not the case. Google profits when you use their services to search the internet. In trying to provide internet access for the next billion people, we see there people using Google’s services and the company profiting in the long run while managing to also help the world. Though, we should never discount the power of people with internet access. The internet is a gateway to vital medical knowledge or warnings of danger and can be used to empower people to create business that would otherwise not be possible without the internet (crowdfunding.)
So what is ethical capitalism?
Ethical capitalism, as defined by me, is still the pursuit of wealth by a private individual or company, but maintaining a responsibility and duty to the world they are operating in. A company should have a fiduciary duty shareholders and the world. They should use a portion of their wealth to do things that make the world a better place. More technology-literate companies can use their profit directly to fund projects within their company. Companies that are not very technological can always donate a portion of their wealth or fund prizes that change the world. The possibilities there are endless.