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Ethical Generic?

July 14, 2014 2 comments

A scientist who toils towards progress works with intellectual property rights by her side. Knowing that her great discovery will be protected so that the organization she works for can profit and further fund discoveries allows her to absorb additional costs. In essence, greater risk allows for greater reward if a major breakthrough is found. Medical companies often cite these protections as essential components to their work: by profiting from a drug like Viagra, Pfizer can work towards medications for highly puzzling yet unknown diseases. Is the road towards the cure for cancer paved in prescriptions for Viagra or Botox?

These controls over intellectual property are not eternal. Depending on the industry the law declares a certain amount of time for protection to exist. Once extinguished the “secret sauce” is revealed and other companies can create their own forms of the drug. This gives way to the wave of generic forms that are far more affordable. And yet despite the benefits of more people having access to these medications one wonders whether longer extensions of protections might give way to faster discoveries of solution to our most horrible conditions.

Might eternal patent protection be better? Is it unethical to buy generic because in doing so we deny the “creator’s work” from receiving compensation? On strays away from this conclusion when details of profit are considered. Pharmaceutical companies are far from destitute and continue to discover important medications in spite of the loss of protection.

In the end, its humanity that charges forward. Despite the global spread of workers dedicated to finding solutions for a multitude of companies each works towards the common goal of fixing human ills. No matter the politics or legal details the scientists who toil towards progress do so not for their companies well being but for the unending war against our ills. Each battles for a better tomorrow and despite the details that come between progress and profit a greater tomorrow comes only by the grace of the brains and brawn of those concerned.

Trickiness of Genius

January 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Genius is suspicious. Federal prosecutors, in mounting their accusations against JP Morgan Chase, suggested they should have “known better” because much of Madoff’s magic was beyond the normal ways and means. Magic tricks and extraordinary skills are just two pieces of that odd wonder we call genius. In those in whom we deem it, it is an ethereal feature where one’s abilities are so far stretched beyond our sense of reality that we aim to give it room.

A common response to genius is to let it be. Dangerous are the actions that stifle genius or otherwise limit its potential. In her biography, A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar highlights a similar reaction. The story details the response of John Nash’s family in light of his battles with schizophrenia. Fearful of hindering his mind and denying the world of the great discoveries it was likely to find, they were skeptical of treatment and preferred instead to allow the troubled genius to remain in struggle.

Genius is a tricky thing. Often seen as a powerful force beyond human understanding, many are fearful of hindering its full blossom. One wonders whether JP Morgan Chase saw in Madoff the fetid fumes of genius. Might their failure to act be less about willing negligence and more a factor of some awe for potential genius? Maybe it was less about their easy profits and the sketchy details, maybe they were less interested in seeing how the sausage was produced. In the end they, and all who proffer genius status on the undeserving, suffer for their foolishness: Madoff, not a genius, was merely sneaky crook.

Genius is a tricky thing. Mysterious in nature, we are quick to gift it to another and when rightfully assigned the benefits are endless. Shakespeare writes Macbeth and Rembrandt paints The Night Watch. Miss the mark and something other happens: genius imitated is disaster waiting to happen.

When In Abscence

October 1, 2013 Leave a comment

A daily norm of behavior brings one into a routine of appearance and performance. You arrive at your job, do your work and leave for home. This cycle of function works to justify one’s existence. Don’t appear and the cycle is broken.  Suddenly one’s absence provides an opportunity to think again. Don’t appear and a new paradigm opens in your absence. “If he’s never here then do we need him?”

Adjustments take hold and suddenly the adjustments made to accommodate one’s absence become routine. A great hazard comes in simply not showing up. It’s often claimed that “showing up is half the battle” and indeed we can learn quite a bit from this simple phrase. People put a lot of value in the physical appearance of another. While one might be completely useless or even damaging to a situation, the sheer fact that one appears has a power to it. The act of “making an appearance” is one of the most useless, but viable evaluation on our society.

We might consider the very construction of this “making an appearance” phrase. Unpack it to see this verb of “making”. What are we creating when we appear? It is merely a physical existence in an organization? Is it merely a presence or actor playing a role that is developed.

Don’t appear and we learn to question your value. If you go away for a day we learn to work without you. Time’s progression creates a snowball of conundrum when one is not around. Oddly one’s best defense against dismissal is to simply show up. Even if one’s work is completely trivial the mere physical presence allows one to appear to be important. One may be an unused gear or even a detrimental part the machine but simply being part of the engine provides a basis to exist.

Knowledge Is Metaphor

June 8, 2013 Leave a comment

In educational psychology, “constructivist” refers to a philosophy of learning whereby an individual “constructs” knowledge by adding new information to what is known. Under this perspective, the human is presented as abstraction- a sort of structure compiled by memory and information.

Under such a model we can frame a cityscape as a community of individuals. The New York city skyline becomes friends and family with taller structures representing age and experience and new construction being the newly born.

The image is quite suggestive, but at what point does metaphor become too much? Are we complicating the idea with such an effort? At what point does the metaphor bloat simplicity and work against the idea’s intention. Do certain ideas defy metaphorical explanation by their simplicity? With many ideas we reach to create metaphors of explanation but do so at the cost of simplicity. Despite our best intentions much of what we know is far simpler than we assume.

 

Human Tool Reflections

March 23, 2013 Leave a comment

That which we use defines us. In our tools we see both need and solution. Hold a hammer and support within your hand a remnant of a problem solved. What can be learned from our tools? Do we see our priorities in our devices? It is our selections that tell the story. Preference refers to selection and the process by which need became desire and desire became reality.

The sense of “choice” and “taste” comes more from popular notions of selection and less from actual quality. What is a “choice wine” but one that has been selected by another. Does the expert palette serve the general tongue? Expertise and specialty does not suggest the ability to provide a greater experience by all. In one’s acute senses there lies little beyond a personal skill. Just because you can taste the difference doesn’t mean that I can.

What can be learned from our choices? Does a preference for a certain brand suggest some deeper need? Might one’s avoidance of a brand suggest an attitude of belief? One recent development in consumer behavior is a consideration of a company’s ethics. Many of today’s consumers happily choose a sub-part product if its competitor’s ethics are less than desirable. Bad actions and cruel policy tarnishes even the greatest product.

Social policy is now connected to consumer behavior and as tools reflect who we are so to does the expressions that surround it. Now it is less what type of hammer but what we do with it. You might make a great chicken sandwich but if your policy on same-sex marriage offends me I’ll go elsewhere. I like your discounted craft supplies but your attitudes just put me off. Yes, your products are amazing but the way you make them makes me sick.

Today’s better product is measured less in terms of quality of production and more in the who and what the surrounds the device. Bad policy and action is far more powerful than great innovation.

Modern Tellings: Detachment In Differential Time

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

One wonders whether certain pieces of fiction are so far beyond contemporary society that they’ve long been rendered fantastic. Even realistic fiction suffers this loss in time, Dickens and Shakespeare become more confusing with each passing decade as cultural touchstones change and points of audience relation disappear.

In those stories people “act differently” or “say things in some other way”. One might even hear of how “the way they see the world is different.” Students experience the texts in different ways than the author originally intended: “Things just aren’t the same.”

But when do stories suffer this detachment via time differential? When does a story become so far off that it is unrelated to our world? Oddly culture decides this.

We have a system where culture reclassifies culture, existing as some swarming, swashing body of material that varies in popularity and relevancy. Certain works never catch while others take decades to find an audience. Some texts lose favor with the culture only to return later to become touchstones. Yet more never connect: bursting into the world only to sink.

This is a fascinating change and on Christmas I consider one story with an existence one wonders is quickly becoming unrelateable: A Christmas Carol.

What would Bob Cratchit do in today’s workplace? Tasked with an abusive employer on top of his life’s stresses how might he react? Given our headlines one wonders whether we can trust Cratchit to suffer silently? In today’s society how do individuals experiencing these forms of stress react? Certainly fiction works to present a popular version of a common reaction and, if possible, the most exciting rendering of the situation in dramatic form? Where might one “modern Bob Cratchit” appear in our story? Consider popular news stories and consider just how some suffer through stress in today’s world. Humility for modern Bob or something different- something much more different with renderings in fiction suggestive of what we read in the news. One fears such modern Bobs.

Adjustment Games

August 23, 2012 3 comments

A paradigm of employment exists. Eight hour shifts occur five days a week and involve an hourly value or yearly salary for tasks performed. One works for a company or entity and is expected to perform the tasks for which he or she is employed while “on the clock.” Though still in use and likely an automatic notion for the majority of employers and employees, does this model still function in contemporary society?

How can one maximize efficiency in a system where tasks are less mechanical and more creative? Unlike physical jobs such as those based on agriculture and manufacturing, jobs where creativity is the major tool in use demand different types of performance. Workers in the creative field may remain stationary during their shift and may not even create a single item for the company. For some, an entire career may pass without a single physical object being created. Unlike the farmer or factory worker whose every shift involves the manipulation or creation of actual objects, the creative field involves abstraction and accomplishments that may be beyond the physical realm.

This new world where abstraction is at play requires a different type of work day. Workers whose primary tool is their creativity cannot be expected to perform at a steady rate. Varied moods and levels of inspiration lead to varied levels of success and employers who recognize this have a greater chance at success. The ideal employer recognizes this varied level of performance and creates a day based on this variety. Workers in the creative fields do not need an eight hour block of time to function; instead, a day based on their own design allows them to create as their brains drive them forward.

Unlike older models of employment, our contemporary economy is best served by a looser form of structure. Workers in the creative fields should be allowed to work at times of their choosing and employers should strive more for the quality of time provided to a company. An army of drones may look busy but if quality suffers a serious problem is in hiding. Maximum efficiency does not mean maximum structure.

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