Three articles, interrelated……..
This past week three articles strike me as memorable. I give links to them here if you’d like to look them up.
Get Rich U. : There are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley. This article in the New Yorker is full of fascinating information, but the thing that interested me immediately was toward the end when author Ken Auletta begins addressing the issue of “distance education”, the emergence of online learning. It seems that online learning is being perceived by some in the administration at Stanford University as a looming threat to the University’s on campus traditions. A recent experiment in online courses was a surprising success, but the credit went mostly to the professor who created the courses, not the University. Now that professor has left Stanford to embark on an education regimen all his own as a private educator. Many other faculty are seeing the possibilities in this, and there is a rising interest in professors as “private contractors”.
Up until now, the idea of forward-thinking technology has worked in Stanford’s favor. They are, after all, the birthplace of much of Silicon Valley’s imaginative financial success, and are still closely tied to many of them. The philosophical dictum, “digital disruption is normal, and even desirable,” was fully embraced by the University. “It was commonly believed that traditional companies and services get disrupted because they are inefficient and costly,” according to Auletta. “But online education might also disrupt everything that distinguishes Stanford,” he adds. Suddenly, the disruption of the “old order” seems less attractive.
The article ends with a quote from John L. Hennessy, the president of Stanford who, until now, fully embraced the idea of “digital disruption.” Suddenly he sees Stanford as being vulnerable to, and even threatened by, digital innovation just as newspapers, the music companies, publishing, and much of traditional media has been during the last fifteen years. It doesn’t feel so good when the digital disruption is focused on your own back yard. “There’s a tsunami coming,” Hennessy is quoted as saying. And indeed there is.
The second article of interest is “Entrepreneurs’ New Nightmare: The Invasion of the Startup Snatchers.” It seems that Silicon Valley startups are being cloned and copied and outmaneuvered by unscrupulous “knock-off” artists, just as if their digital creations were a Prada purse knock-off sold on the streets of the major cities of the world. Copycat startups are holding the companies they are cloning hostage to their own identities. Again, suddenly (again), Silicon Valley is being set on its ear by the same kind of “innovation” that they have so long held as their birthright to upend traditional media. Problems ahead. Now copyrights and “rules” seem like a good idea.
The third article of interest: “These Islands Aren’t Just a Shelter from Taxes” appeared in today’s New York Times op ed pages. It was written by Robert M. Morgenthau the Manhattan district attorney from thirty-four years. It’s a short article with some block buster quotable quotes: “The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 2008 [note the date] estimated that at least $5 trillion to 7 trillion was sheltered in offshore juristictions like the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Bermuda and the Bahamas”. And, “Consider the British Virgin Islands, home to about 30,000 people and 475,000 companies.” And, “Where there is no transparency, there can be no oversight.” And, “When companies use secrecy juristictions to commit fraud or to evade sanctions, legal remedies may come as cold comfort.”
Read this short op ed piece if you want to see how these three articles are tied together even further. None of these things happen in isolation.
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