Saturday, April 20, 2019

Steve Jobs' Epiphany

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Friday, April 19, 2019

the Worst Part About Having a JOB

Once upon a time as a school teacher I was told by an incompetent supervisor that if I thought I knew better than him I should go out on my own and prove it. So I did. And that has been the difference in my happiness and success in life.

Most people have at some point worked for a bad boss. In fact, when it comes to the performance of managers and leaders, the norm is incompetence rather than competence. This is why so many people are disengaged, looking for other jobs, and ditching traditional employment to work for themselves instead.

Businesses struggle to accept this. After all, they are in charge of selecting effective bosses, and admitting that their leadership choices are self-destructive is perhaps a step too far. And yet, only 20% of boards of directors see their leadership identification and development practices as effective, while 70% of employees report that the worst part of their job is their direct line manager.

Since it is safe to assume that businesses are interested in getting results, and high-quality leaders are the biggest single driver of results, why is there is so much tolerance for incompetent leaders. What stops businesses from simply replacing them with more talented people who will enable their teams to go from boredom, burnout and alienation to inspiration, pride and productivity?

Three things. The first is a general inability — or unwillingness — to actually measure the performance of their leaders. Unlike in professional team sports where leaders are carefully scrutinized based on how their teams perform (and the rules of the game are well-defined), businesses tend to lack robust metrics to compare the performance of their leaders and evaluate how they impact their teams, business units or the organization as a whole.

At times, they do of course inspect key performance indicators, such as team revenue, profit, net promoter scores, customer satisfaction ratings and turnover. But it occurs too infrequently, and even then, data are noisy and conflated by a range of hidden or unmeasured variables.

The most common scenario is to simply inspect how leaders are rated by their own bosses, which explains why leaders are so busy managing up — when good leadership is about managing down.

The second is the influence of toxic politics. In the absence of clear-cut performance data, leadership is reduced to a popularity contest, a political game in which Machiavellian and manipulative leaders will thrive. This also explains why incompetent leaders will reproduce: the more inept and corrupt a manager is, the more detrimental his or her hiring decisions will be. Moreover, such managers will go to great lengths to sabotage the career prospects of talented and ethical employees focused on helping organizations rather than pleasing their bosses.

The third and final reason is a failure to understand leadership potential. This can take many shapes, but the overarching theme is the tendency to ignore the science of leadership at the expense of flawed leadership models and unreliable evaluations of leadership potential. For example, organizations put too much emphasis on candidates’ past performance, but many great individual contributors aren’t really able to manage people, and they will see a “promotion” into a leadership role as punishment. What is the logic of moving people away from a job they were doing well, to put them in one they can’t do?

Companies also focus on the wrong soft skills, selecting leaders on confidence rather than competence, charisma rather than humility, and narcissism rather than integrity. These flawed criteria explain not only why the majority of leaders are incompetent, but also why they are male — as men generally have more of these toxic traits than women. The result is a pathological system that rewards leaders for their incompetence while impeding more talented and competent individuals from rising to the top.

Luckily, the solution to our leadership problems is simpler than people may think. First, organizations should pay attention to the science and focus on the qualities proven to make people better leaders: competence, humility and integrity. Competence is a function of experience, knowledge and intelligence. Detecting it is not that hard so long as those tasked to detect it are themselves competent and have subject matter expertise in the field. Humility and integrity can be assessed with science-driven psychometric tests (like the NEO-PI-R personality assessment or Hogan’s Dark Side assessment) and 360-degree feedbacks.

Second, organizations — and especially HR leaders — must learn to distrust their instincts. Unlike in nuclear physics or organic chemistry, people often assume that intuition is a valid tool in the social and behavioral sciences. But there is a science to understanding and predicting human behavior, just like there is a science to nuclear physics and organic chemistry. Using data and predictive assessments — even when the results run counter to one’s intuition — will help organizations detect true leadership potential and select the right people.

Third, don’t lower the bar when selecting female leaders, but elevate it when selecting male leaders so not to be blinded by their confidence, swagger and charisma. Select more on substance rather than style. In other words, the best approach to get more women in leadership is to follow the same approach we would follow if we wanted to improve the quality of our leaders: focus on talent rather than gender.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Earth's Cooling Trend

A recent NASA study shows strong evidence that ice is accumulating in Antarctica. Satellite measurements show a recent 82-112 gigaton-a-year net ice gain. That’s 82-112,000,000,000 tons of new ice per year! Not only is the Antarctic Ice Sheet growing, NASA admits that the growth is actually reducing sea-level rise. Antarctica contains 90 percent of the earth’s ice. If the Antarctic Ice Sheet is growing, wouldn’t that mean that more than 90 percent of the world’s glaciers are growing, not shrinking?

NASA says that the increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers. The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice.

According to the analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008. “We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica,” said Jay Zwally, a glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study, which was published on Oct. 30 in the Journal of Glaciology. “Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica – there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.” Zwally added that his team “measured small height changes over large areas, as well as the large changes observed over smaller areas.”

Scientists calculate how much the ice sheet is growing or shrinking from the changes in surface height that are measured by the satellite altimeters. In locations where the amount of new snowfall accumulating on an ice sheet is not equal to the ice flow downward and outward to the ocean, the surface height changes and the ice-sheet mass grows or shrinks. The study analyzed changes in the surface height of the Antarctic ice sheet measured by radar altimeters on two European Space Agency European Remote Sensing (ERS) satellites, spanning from 1992 to 2001, and by the laser altimeter on NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) from 2003 to 2008.

They also used information on snow accumulation for tens of thousands of years, derived by other scientists from ice cores, to conclude that East Antarctica has been thickening for a very long time. The extra snowfall that began 10,000 years ago has been slowly accumulating on the ice sheet and compacting into solid ice over millennia, thickening the ice in East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica by an average of 0.7 inches (1.7 centimeters) per year. “The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away,” Zwally said.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What Our Sons and Daughters Learn at University

Universities in the 20th century were dedicated to the advancement of knowledge. Scholarship and research were pursued, and diverse opinions were exchanged and argued in the “marketplace of ideas.”

This is no longer the case. Particularly in the social sciences, humanities, education, social work, and law, a single political ideology has replaced scholarship and research, because the ideology presents fixed answers to all questions. And, although the most important thing in universities today is the diversity of race, gender, sexual practice, ethnicity, economic class, and physical and mental capability, there is no longer diversity of opinion. Only those committed to the ideology are admitted to academic staff or administration.

Universities have been transformed by the near-universal adoption of three interrelated theories: postmodernism, postcolonialism, and social justice. These theories and their implications will be explored here.

There Is No Truth; Nothing Is Good or Bad

Postmodernism: In the past, academics were trained to seek truth. Today, academics deny that there is such a thing as objective Truth. Instead, they argue that no one can be objective, that everyone is inevitably subjective, and consequently everyone has their own truth. The correct point of view, they urge, is relativism. This means not only that truth is relative to the subjectivity of each individual, but also that ethics and morality are relative to the individual and the culture, so there is no such thing as Good and Evil, or even Right and Wrong. So too with the ways of knowing; your children will learn that there is no objective basis for preferring chemistry over alchemy, astronomy over astrology, or medical doctors over witch doctors. They will learn that facts do not exist; only interpretations do.

All Cultures Are Equally Good; Diversity Is Our Strength

Our social understanding has also been transformed by postmodern relativism. Because moral and ethical principles are deemed to be no more than the collective subjectivity of our culture, it is now regarded as inappropriate to judge the principles and actions of other cultures. This doctrine is called “cultural relativism.” For example, while racism is held to be the highest sin in the West, and slavery the greatest of our historical sins, your children will learn that we are not allowed to criticize contemporary racism and slavery in Africa, the Middle East, and the equivalents in South Asia.

The political manifestation of cultural relativism is multiculturalism, an incoherent concept that projects the integration of multiple incompatible cultures. Diversity is lauded as a virtue in itself. Imagine a country with fifty different languages, each derived from a different culture. That would not be a society, but a tower of babble. How would it work if there were multiple codes of law requiring and forbidding contrary behaviors: driving on the left and driving on the right; monogamy and polygamy; male dominance and gender equality; arranged marriage and individual choice? Your children will learn that our culture is nothing special and that other cultures are awesome.

The West Is Evil; The Rest Are Virtuous

Postcolonialism, the dominant theory in the social sciences today, is inspired by the Marxist-Leninist theory of imperialism, in which the conflict between the capitalist and proletariat classes is allegedly exported to the exploitation of colonized countries. By this means, the theory goes, oppression and poverty take place in colonies instead of in relation to the metropolitan working class. Postcolonialism posits that all of the problems in societies around the world today are the result of the relatively short Western imperial dominance and colonization. For example, British imperialism is blamed for what are in fact indigenous cultures, such as the South Asian caste system and the African tribal system. So too, problems of backwardness and corruption in countries once, decades ago, colonies continue to be blamed on past Western imperialism. The West is thus the continuing focus on anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist sentiment. Your children will learn that our society is evil, and the cause of all the evil in the wider world.

Only the West Was Imperialist and Colonialist

This ahistorical approach of postcolonialism ignores the hundreds of empires and their colonies throughout history, as well as ignoring contemporary empires, such as the Arab Muslim Empire that conquered all of the central Middle East, North Africa, southern Europe, Persia, Central Asia, and northern India, and occupied them minimally for hundreds of years, but 1400 years in the central Middle East and North Africa, and occupy them today. China, once the Communists took power, invaded Inner Mongolia to the north, Chinese Turkestan to the west, and Tibet to the south. Once in control, the government flooded these colonies with Han Chinese, in effect ethnically cleansing them. Postcolonialists have nothing to say about any of this; they wish to condemn exclusively the West. Your children will learn to reject history and comparisons with other societies, lest the claimed unique sins of the West be challenged.

Western Imperialism Was a Racist Project

Postcolonialists like to stress the racial dimension of Western imperialism: as an illustration of racism. But postmodernists are not interested in Arab slave raiding in “black” Africa, or Ottoman slaving among the whites in the Balkans, or the North Africans slave raiding of whites in Europe, from Ireland through Italy and beyond. Your children will learn that only whites are racist.

Israeli Colonialists Are White Supremacists

A remarkable example of this line of thinking is the characterization of Israel as a settler colonialist, white supremacist, apartheid society Allegedly white Israelis are oppressing Palestinian people of color. The (non-postmodern) facts make this a difficult argument to sustain. As is well established by all evidence, Jewish tribes and kingdoms occupied Judea and Samaria for a thousand years before the Romans invaded and fought war after imperial war against the indigenous Jews, and then enslaved or exiled most of them, renaming the land “Palestine.” Then, five centuries later, the Arabs from Arabia invaded and conquered Palestine, going on to conquer half of the world. The Jews returned to “Palestine” after 1400 years; most were refugees or stateless, so not colonists from a metropolis. Almost half of Israelis are Jewish Arabs thrown out of Arab countries, not to mention the Ethiopian and Indian Jews. Furthermore, Arab Muslims and Christians make up 21% of Israeli citizens. So to characterize multicolored Israelis as “whites” oppressing “Palestinian people of color’ is an imaginary distinction.

Canadian? You Have No Right to Stolen Native Land

If indigenous Jews are deemed to have no claim to their ancient homeland, then Euro-Canadians, Asian Canadians, African Canadians, and Latin Canadians are colonialist settlers without even an excuse. You have stolen Native land. The only moral course, according to postcolonialism, is to give everything back. At the very least, in order for “decolonization” to be implemented, the First Nations must be ranked above the interloping settlers, must be given special preference in all benefits, the law must make special exceptions for them. First nations must receive ongoing grants, pay no taxes, be given special reserved places in universities and government offices, and they have a veto over any public policy and be ceremonially bowed to at every public event.

As we are guided by postcolonialism rather than by human rights, we can disregard the human right of equal treatment before the law. That is just a rule of foreign settlers anyway. And the cities and industries and institutions built by the settlers, so the decolonialization story goes, really should belong to the natives, even though they lived in simple settlements or were nomads, depending upon simple shelters, with limited hunting or cultivating subsistence economies. There was no civil peace among the many Native bands and tribes, with raiding, enslavement, torture, and slaughter common.

White Men Are Evil; Women of Color Are Virtuous

Social justice theory teaches that the world is divided between oppressors and victims. Some categories of people are oppressors and other are victims: males are oppressors, and females are victims; whites are oppressors, and people of color are victims; heterosexuals are oppressors, and gays, lesbians, bisexual, etc. are victims; Christians and Jews are oppressors, and Muslims are victims. Your sons will learn that they are stigmatized by their toxic masculinity.

Individuals Are Not Important; Only Category Membership Is

Social justice theory has taken university life by storm. It is the result of the relentless working of Marxist theory, adopted by youngsters during the American cultural revolution of the 1960s, then brought to universities as many of those youngsters became college professors. Marxism as an academic theory was explicitly followed by some in the 1970s and 1980s, but it did not sweep everything else away, because the idea economic class conflict was not popular in the prosperous general North American population. The cultural Marxist innovation that brought social justice theory to dominance was the extension of class conflict from economics to gender, race, sexual practice, ethnicity, religion, and other mass categories. We see this in sociology, which is no longer defined as the study of society but has for decades been defined as the study of inequality. For social justice theory, equality is not the equality of opportunity that is the partner of merit, but rather equality of result, which ensures the members of each category at equality of representation irrespective of merit. Your sons will learn that they should “step aside” to give more space and power to females. Your daughters, if white, will learn that they must defer to members of racial minorities.

Justice Is Equal Representation According to Percentages of the Population

As there is allegedly structural discrimination against all members of victim categories, in order for equality of result to prevail, representation according to percentages of populations must be mandated in all organizations, in all books assigned or references cited, in all awards and benefits. Ideas such as merit and excellence are dismissed as white-male supremacist dog whistles; they are to be replaced by “diversity” of gender, race, sexual preference, ethnicity, economic class, religion, and so on. (Note that “diversity” does not include “diversity of opinion”; for only social justice ideology is acceptable. Any criticism or opposition is regarded as “hate speech.”) Academic committees now twist themselves into pretzels trying to explain that “diversity is excellence.”

Members of Oppressor Categories Must Be Suppressed

Of course, the requirement of representation according to population applies only one way: to members of victim classes. If whites, men, heterosexuals, Christians, etc. are underrepresented, that is fine; the fewer the better. For example, females now make up 60% of university graduates, although in the general age cohort males are 51%. There is no social justice clamoring for males to be fully represented. Members of disfavored oppressor categories are disparaged. The classics of Western civilization should be ignored because they are the work, almost exclusively, of “dead white men.” Only works of females, people of color and non-Western authors should be considered virtuous. So too in political history. The American Constitution should be discarded because its writers were slaveholders.

Victims of The World Unite!

“intersectionality” is an idea invented by a feminist law professor. It argues that some individuals fall into several victim categories, for example, black, female lesbians have three points in the victim stakes, as opposed to male members of the First Nations who receive only one point. Further, on the action front, members of each victim category are urged to unite and ally with members of other victim categories, because sharing the victim designation is the most important status in the world. This leads to some anomalies. Black victims of racism are urged to unite with Arab victims of colonialism, even though Arabs have been and still are holders of black slaves.

Female victims of sexism are urged to support Palestinian victims of “white” colonialism, even though Palestinian women have always been and continue to be subordinated to men, and are subjected to a wide range of abuse. Your children will learn that to be accepted, they must assume victim status or become champions of victims, and ally with other victims.

Being Educated Is About Being on The Right Side

As Karl Marx said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” The objective of a university education today is to ensure that students chose “the right side” in changing the world. The idea that it probably makes sense to try to understand the world before attempting to change it, is rejected as outmoded, modernist empiricism and realism, now superseded by postmodernism and social justice. If there is no Truth, and whatever one feels or believes is one’s truth, then trying to gain an objective understanding of the world is futile. Anyway, Marxist social justice offers all the answers anyone needs, so no inquiry or serious research is required. Be confident that at university your children will learn “the right side” to be on, if little else.

By Philip Carl Salzman, September 4, 2018,

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What We See and What We Don't See

We see the obvious and visible consequences of crises in our world, not the invisible and less obvious ones. The media makes sure of that in their "news" reporting. Yet it is the unseen consequences that can be, and generally are, more meaningful.

Take a look at Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It received a tremendous amount of media attention and politicization on television. Moved by the images of the devastation and pictures of angry victims made homeless, politicians made promises to rebuild the community, a noble gesture on their part to do something humanitarian, to rise above the abject selfishness of the day-to-day.

But did they promise to do so with their own money? Of course not; it was to be funded by public money. Any funds used would have to be re-allocated (taken away) from somewhere else - from something that would be less mediatized - say, like cancer research, or efforts to curb diabetes. No attention would be paid to victims of cancer lying lonely in a condition of un-televised despair. Most of these cancer patients would likely be dead before the next ballot was cast anyhow, so they were not deemed consequential enough to have their plight broadcast over the televised airwaves.

More cancer patients die each day than died during the entire Katrina tragedy. Perhaps they are the ones who need us more - not just our financial support, but our attention and kindness. Yet they may very well have been the ones from whom the money was redirected away from - directly or indirectly. If they died as a result of inadequate financial support, it will be a crime for which there shall be no air time, no regret, no apology... no after-thought ever again of the tragedy within the tragedy.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Beginners Luck

Ever hear of beginners luck? I was in Las Vegas just a week ago and was thinking about the crowds wandering through the busy casinos. There is a belief among gamblers that beginners are nearly always lucky. If you look at the evidence, this statement is actually true, confirming that gamblers do, in fact, generally have lucky beginnings. But so do stock market speculators. So, does this mean that each of us should take up gambling, at least for awhile, to take advantage of this finding, then stop before our luck changes?

Definitely not. The evidence is an evidentiary illusion, at best. Among all beginning gamblers, some will be lucky and some will not, The casinos generally make sure more do not have beginners luck. It is the lucky ones, who feel that they have been specially selected by destiny, who generally continue gambling, while the unlucky beginners generally are discouraged at their initial losses and have no incentive to continue.

The lucky few will never forget their early success. The unlucky will no longer be a part of the surviving gamblers community and go on to find some other distraction in life. As gambling is more a matter of statistical chance than luck. the casinos still have no appeal for me.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Life on Planet Earth: Easy Come, Easy Go

Life is a great deal more fragile than we give it credit for. Many, many species go extinct each year. Regrettably or not. But this does not mean that we humans should feel guilty about the many extinctions that happen on the planet; nor does it mean we should necessarily take drastic measures to stop life forms from disappearing by offering special protection for them. Species were coming and going long before we started to impact the world, and will continue to do so - with or without us.

Our planet is a silent cemetery of species that we forget have come and gone before us, some leaving a fossil record, some not. The earth's biodiversity over time is far greater than we may imagine. It is estimated that of all the living species that have called earth home at some point, close to 99.5% of them are extinct. They are gone, hardly any of which was the result of humans messing up the environment. Caring about other living species and our potential impact upon them is considerate, but there is no need as a species to feel morally responsible for every single organism on the endangered species list. That's nothing more than posturing for political correctness.