Ethics and Entrepreneurs

The Wall St. Journal outlined a series of the ethical issues facing start-up, and even larger tech companies: “The Ethical Challenges Facing Entrepreneurs“.  Having done time in a few similar situations, I can attest to the temptations that exist.  Here are a few of the key issues:

  • The time implications of a startup – many high-tech firms expect employees to be “there” far more than 40 hours per week. Start-ups are even more demanding, with the founders likely to have a period of their lives dominated by these necessities – families, relationships and even individual health can suffer.  What do you owe your relationships, or even yourself?
  • Not in the article, but in the news: in the U.S. many professional employees are “exempt” from overtime pay.  This means they can be expected to work “when needed” but often it seems to be needed every day and every week, yielding 60 hour work weeks (and 50% fewer employees needed to accomplish the work.)  I did this for most of my life, but also got stock options and bonus pay that allowed me to retire early … I see others in low paying jobs, penalized for not being “part of the team” as an exempt employee even when they have no work to actually perform.  Start-ups can project the “founder’s passion” onto others who may not have anywhere near the same share of potential benefit from the outcome.  This parallels a point in the article on “Who is really on the team?” — how do you share the pie when things take off?  Do you ‘stiff’ the bulk of the early employees and keep it to yourself? Or do you have some millionaire administrative assistants? It sets the personality of your company, trust me, I’ve seen it both ways.
  •  Who owns the “IP”? — it would be easy if we were talking patents and copyrights (ok, maybe not easy, technologists often get short-changed when their inventions are the foundation of corporate growth and they find they are looking for a new job.) — But there are lots of grey areas — was a spin-out idea all yours, or did it arise from the lunch table discussion? And what do you do when the company rejects your ideas (often to maintain their own focus, which is laudable).  So is your new start-up operation really free and  clear of legacy IP?
  • Mis-representation is a non-trivial temptation.  Entrepreneurs are looking for venture capital, for customers, for ongoing investors, and eventually to the business press (“xyz corporation fell short of expectations by 13% this quarter”.)  On one hand, if you are not optimistic and filled with hopeful expectations you can’t get off the ground. But ultimately, a good story will meet the test of real data, and along with this your reputation with investors, suppliers, customers, and in the worst case, the courts.  There is a difference between “of course our product has ‘abc'” (when you know it doesn’t), and “if that’s what it takes, we will make it with ‘abc'”. I’ve seen both – it’s a pain to do those overtime hours to make it do ‘abc’ because the sales person promised it. It is more of a pain to deal with the lawyers when it wasn’t ever going to be there. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (but not the book I’m glad to say.)
  • What do you do with the data?  A simple example – I worked for a company developing semi-conductor design equipment, we often had the most secret designs from customers to work out some bug they discovered. While one aspect of this is clear (it’s their’s), there are more subtle factors like some innovative component, implicit production methods or other pieces that a competitor or even your own operation may find of value.
  • What is the company role in the community? Some startups are 24/7 focused on their own operation. Some assume employees, and even the corporation should engage beyond the workplace.  Again, early action in this area sets the personality of an organization.  Be aware that technologists are often motivated by purpose as much as money – so being socially conscious may be a winning investment.
  • What is the end game? — Now that you have yours, what do you do with it? — Here I will quote one of the persons mentioned in the article: “The same drive that made me an entrepreneur now drives me to try to save the world.”

I will suggest that this entrepreneur will apply the same ethical outlook at the start of the game as he/she does at the end of the game.

 

Internet 3.0?

Steve Case, founder of AOL, has a new book out “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future“.  As a leader in the “First Wave” (remember dial up modems?… and getting a floppy disk from AOL every month in the mail? — that was SO last millennium) — Steve has some perspective on the evolution of the net.   His waves are:

  1. Building the Internet – companies such as AOL creating infrastructure, peaking circa 2000 (remember the dot-com bubble?)
  2. Apps and Services on top of the net. (the currently declining wave)
  3. Ubiquitous, integrated in our everyday lives — touching everything

This seems to ignore a few major ‘game-changers’ as I see it, including the introduction of the Web and Browsers, Altavista/Google for search, and Amazon for retail. But, that does not diminish the reality of the social impact of whatever Internet Wave we are on at this point.  You might tend to align his assertion with the “Internet of Things”, where very light bulb (or other device) has an IP address and can be managed over the net.  But Steve points to much broader areas of impact:
education, medical care, politics, employment and as promised in his title, entrepreneurial success.

Another way to look at this is “what fields, if any, are not being transformed by networked computing devices?” Very few, even technology that does not incorporate these devices (genetically modified whatever), they depend on networked computer technology at many points in their invention and production.

Steve suggests we need a “new play book” for this emerging economic reality.  I suspect he is only half right.  This was the mantra of the Internet Bubble, where generating income was subservient to new ideas, market growth, mind-share, etc.  What is clear is that it will be increasingly difficult for existing corporations to recognize, much less invest in the innovations that will disrupt or destroy their business. AOL and my past employer, Digital Equipment, are both examples of companies that had failed transitions, in part due to their momentum in “previous generations” of technology. (AOL continues as a visible subsidiary of Verizon, Digital has been subsumed into HP.)  What is happening is that the rate of change is increasing, The challenges associated with this were documented in the 1970’s by Alan Toffler in his book “Future Shock” and it’s sequels, “The Third Wave“, “Powershift” and most recently in “Revolutionary Wealth” (2006).  Toffler’s short form of Future Shock is: “too much change in too short a period of time” — a reality that has traction 50 years later.

What examples of disruption do you see coming? (But beware, it’s the ones we don’t see that can get us.)

T&S Magazine December 2015

cover dec 15

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

Volume 34, Number 4, December 2015

Departments

President’s Message
3 Improving Our “Engineering-Crazed” Image
Greg Adamson

Book Reviews
4 Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks
6 Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine

Editorial
9 Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE
Katina Michael

Open Letter
15 Technology and Change

Interview
16 On the Road with Rick Sare… and Google Glass

Viewpoint
17 Shakespeare, Social Media and Social Networks
Fernando A. Crespo, Sigifredo Laengle, Paula Baldwin Lind and Víctor Hugo Masías

Leading Edge
20 Corporate Individualism – Changing the Face of Capitalism
László G. Lovászy

23 Multimedia and Gaming Technologies for Telerehabilitation of Motor Disabilities
Andrea Proietti, Marco Paoloni, Massimo Panella, Luca Liparulo and Rosa Altilio

31 MoodTrek – A New App to Improve Mental HealthCare
Ganesh Gopalakrishna and Srivam Chellappan

33 Alternative Planning and Land Administration for Future Smart Cities
Soheil Sabri, Abbas Rajabifard, Serene Ho, Mohammad-Reza Namazi-Rad, and Christopher Pettit

Commentary
36 Pharmaco-Electronics Emerge
Joseph R. Carvalko

41 Blockchain Thinking*
Melanie Swan

63 Information Paradox*
Levent V. Orman

Fiction
54 Held Captive in the Cyberworld
Michael Eldred

Last Word
104 Digitus Secundus: The Swipe
Christine Perakslis

Features
74_ The Value of Accountability in the Cloud*
Wouter M.P. Steijn and Maartje G.H. Niezen

83_ Shaping Our Technological Futures*
Reihana Mohideen and Rob Evans

88_ Driver Distraction from Dashboard and Wearable Interfaces*
Robert Rosenberger

100_ Are Technologies Innocent?*
Michael Arnold and Christopher Pearce

*Refereed articles.

On the cover: Blockchain Thinking. English Wikipedia/The Opte Project/Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Technology for Jobs for Technologists …

Employment is a key aspect of society, and using technology to help folks connect with jobs is an appropriate consideration for SSIT.  It is also an area where IEEE is now developing tools for IEEE members and employers. — IEEE is creating web site, IEEEExpo.org, to serve as a virtual “job fair”.  This is targeted at helping IEEE members and student members to connect with jobs that relate to their skills and interests.    What makes this different from a classical “job board” is the introduction of real time interaction opportunities with employers (ergo the Job Fair analogy) ….

While you can sign up and build a profile at any time via the link above, there will be real time events on Jan. 20, April 20, June 15 and Sept. 21st where participants can connect with employers.   Companies wishing to participate can go to : http://www.ieeeexpo.org/#!companies/mxfq6 to register to participate on the employer side.

Why is IEEE a particularly great opportunity for career development?

  • Our focus is on providing professionals with ongoing education (local seminars, publications, webinars, conferences, etc.)
  • Our members demonstrate by their engagement a commitment to ongoing education, and continuing to develop their knowledge.
  • Our engaged members (participants and leaders of events, publications, etc.) are acquiring essential applicable soft-skills in terms of team activities, leadership, communications and exposure to new ideas.
  • It is not surprising that IEEE publications are the most cited in U.S. patent applications.  Engineers and Technologists innovate — IEEE is the worlds largest technical professional society — our members are, appropriately, the most sought after potential employees on earth.

 

Humans in a Post Employment World?

There are many sources suggesting that productivity (including robotics and A.I. interfaces) will increase enough to have a significant impact on future employment world wide.   This includes:

Geoff Colvin, in his new ‘underrated’ book suggests that even in a world where most if not all jobs can be done by robots, humans are social animals and will prefer human interactions in some situations.  The Atlantic, focuses on what the future may include for jobless persons when that is the norm.  “The Jobless don’t spend their time socializing or taking up new hobbies. Instead they watch TV or sleep.”  A disturbing vision of a world which currently includes, according to this article, 16% of American men ages 25-54.  The article did not discuss the potential for younger men who see limited future opportunity to turn to socially problematic activities from crime and drugs to radicalization and revolution.

As with any challenge, the first step is recognizing there is a problem. This may be more difficult in the U.S. where work is equated with status, personal identity (“I am a <job title here>”), and social responsibility.  One suggestion is the creation of civic centers where folks can get together and “meet, learn skills, bond around sports or crafts, and socialize.” These might be combined with maker-spaces and start-up incubators that become a catalyst for creator-consumer-funder collaborations.

So — what’s your future “job” — will you be in the “on-demand” economy?  Perhaps engaging in the maker-world? — How might this future differ in various countries? Will Europe or India or ?? yield different responses to a situation that is expected to affect global economies over this century?

T&S Magazine March 2015 Contents

LOW RES T&S March 2015 cover 1

Volume 34, Number 1, March 2015

Special Section on Social and Economic Sustainability

18 GUEST EDITORIAL Jason Sargent, Khanjan Mehta, and Katina Michael

20 Long-Distance Telecommunication in Remote, Poor Areas* Martin J. Murillo, Juan A. Paco, and David Wright

31 Integrated Energy Resources Planning for the Electricity Sector: Targeting Sustainable Development Miguel Edgar Morales Udaeta, Flavio Minoru Maruyama, Andre Luiz Veiga Gimenes, and Luiz Cláudio Ribeiro Galvão

39 The Role of ICT in a Low Carbon Society Michael Koenigsmayr and Thomas Neubauer

45 RFID Individual Tracking and Records Management – Solutions for Slum Communities* Ali Zalzala, Vivienne Strettle, Stanley Chia, and Laura Zalzala

FEATURES

56 An Anticipatory Social Assessment of Factory-Grown Meat* Carolyn S. Mattick, Jameson M. Wetmore, and Braden R. Allenby

65 Resolving Multiplexed Automotive Communications: Applied Agency and the Social Car* Sally A. Applin and Michael D. Fischer

74 Mobile Technology for Socio-Religious Events – A Case Study of NFC Technology* Mohamed Ahmed Mohandes  

DEPARTMENTS

Inside Front Cover ISTAS 2015 – Culture, Ethics, and the Knowledge Society Call for Papers

4 President’s Message SSIT Past and Future Greg Adamson

5 Book Review The Circle

Opinion

7 Ruminations on the “IQ2 Debate: We Are Becoming Enslaved by Our Technology” Jeff Robbins

9 Are Social Media Making Us Stupid? Liz Stillwaggon Swan and Louis J. Goldberg

11 Commentary Considering Social Implications of Biometric Registration – A Database Intended for Every Citizen in India Usha Ramanathan

80 Last Word Lessons from the Sea Christine Perakslis

*Refereed article.

Cover Image: ISTOCK.

Emoti Con’s

I’m not talking about little smiley faces :^( ,,, but how automation can evaluate your emotions, and as is the trend of this blog – how that information may be abused.

Your image is rather public.  From your Facebook page, to the pictures posted from that wedding you were at, to the myriad of cameras capturing data in every store, street corner, ATM machine, etc. And, as you (should) know, facial recognition is already there to connect your name to that face.  Your image can also be used to evaluate your emotions, automatically with tools described in a recent Wall St Journal article (The  Technology That Unmasks Your Hidden Emotions.)  These tools can be used in real time as well as evaluation of static images.

So wandering though the store, it may be that those cameras are not just picking up shop-lifters, but lifting shopper responses to displays, products and other aspects of the store.  Having identified you (via facial recognition, or the RFID constellation you carry)  the store can correlate your personal response to specific items.  The next email you get may be promoting something you liked when you were at the store, or an well researched-in-near-real-time evaluation of what ‘persons like you’ seem to like.

The same type of analysis can be used analysing and responding to your responses in some political context — candidate preferences, messages that seem to be effective. Note, this is no longer the ‘applause-meter’ model to decide how the audience responds, but personalized to you, as a face-recognized person observing that event. With cameras getting images though front windshields posted on political posters/billboards it may be possible to collect this data on a very wide basis, not just for those who chose to attend an event.

Another use of real time emotional tracking could play out in situations such as interviews, interrogations, sales show rooms, etc.  The person conducting the situation may be getting feedback from automated analysis that informs the direction they lead the interaction. The result might be a job offer, arrest warrant or focused sales pitch in these particular cases.

The body-language of lying is also being translated.  Presumably a next step here is for automated analysis of your interactions. For those of us who never, ever lie, that may not be a problem. And of course, being a resident of New Hampshire where the 2016 presidential season has officially opened, it would be nice to have some of these tools in the hands of the citizens as we seek to narrow down the field of candidates.

 

ISTAS 2015 – Nov 11, 12; Dublin Ireland

The International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), held annually.

Papers (5,000 – 6,000 words) using the ISTAS2015 Template must be registered on the conference portal by the deadline of 31 May 2015.  Workshop proposals have a 8 June 2015 deadline (see site for details)

 

 

EPIC2015 – Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference

Of potential interest to the SSIT Community:
São Paulo, Brazil, October 5-8, 2015
http://epicpeople.org/2015

EPIC is the premier international gathering on the current and future practice of ethnography and design in the business world.

Call for Participation
http://epicpeople.org/2015/call-for-participation/

EPIC2015 explores Building Bridges–the diverse connections among people, places, industries, and disciplines at the heart of ethnographic praxis. The EPIC 2015 program committee welcomes submissions of Paper
Abstracts, Pecha-Kucha Abstracts, and Tutorial Proposals that present original work in the areas of ethnography and design. They may focus on methodological, theoretical,
and business challenges, and opportunities offered in empirical studies.

Important Dates
Submission deadline – March 6, 2015
Acceptance notification – April 13, 2015
Final Submission – September 15, 2015

Amazon vs Hachette – Tech Consolidation Impact on Emerging Authors

The dispute between Amazon and book publisher Hachette reached a settlement in November.  The Authors United group formed by a number of top selling authors, including Steven King, sent a letter to the Amazon Board of Directors expressing their concern with “sanctions” directed at Hachette authors including “refusing pre-orders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books“.  This group has not yet resolved their concerns about the impact of this applied technology. There are financial and career implications from the loss of Amazon as a channel for sales, even for the months of this dispute.  These include reduced sales for proven best selling authors, and for first-time authors, reduced sales can be the end of their career.

The Bangor Daily News indicates this group is pressuring the Federal government and exploring a law suit to address some of these damages.

A key question is the monopolistic potential of having a single major channel for selling a class of products.  Amazon is reported in this article as being the source of 41% of new book sales in the U.S. And is reported by some best selling authors as having “disappeared” them — with searches for their names on Amazon yielding no results.

Data Mining makes it possible to associate authors with publishers, and manipulate their visibility via online sales channels.  There are legal and ethical issues here that span beyond the immediate “Hatchet”: case.  Apple is continuing its e-book anti-trust battle claiming a “David vs Goliath” position where Amazon holds 90%+ of e-book sales.

Both Apple and Amazon hold significant control over critical channels that authors (books, software, etc) need to both sell their products, but also to even become visible to the to potential readers/users/consumers. Both are for-profit companies that apply their market power and technology to maximize their profits (which is what capitalism and stock holders expect.)  The creative individuals producing indi or even traditional channel creations who might be expected to benefit from the global access of the Internet can get trampled when these mammoth’s charge towards their goals.

Is the Internet creating new opportunities, or consolidating to create concentrated bastions of power?  (Or both?)   Oddly this comes around to parallel issues with “net neutrality” and how the entertainment industry is relating to Internet channels — perhaps there is a broader set of principles involved.