Diet courtesy of Amazon
In a recent Globe and Mail column, Sylvain Charlebois, dean of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University, wrote about how technology is revolutionising food distribution and consumption. He suggests that online ordering and home delivery is making consumers more rational, more informed, and even healthier. A dubious claim, but let’s go with it for a minute. The professor wrote excitedly about the prospect of automatic ordering of groceries and delivery to a consumer’s fridge. He imagined companies delivering to our kitchens the food we need to better our health, based on data downloaded from people’s portable devices. He calls this sort of diet management the “fitbitization” of food, after the ubiquitous wrist-worn reminder of people’s inactivity.
Picture a scenario whereby Amazon analyzes personal data from our wrist-worn devices, determines our nutritional requirements, and has Alexa order us to eat more broccoli. It’s technology run amok – the result of technophilia. Continue reading “When Technophilia Rules: From Coffee-pot Cameras to Smart Appliances and Beyond”
“I can handle things – I’m smart. Unlike everybody says, like dumb. I’m smart, and I want respect!”
Donald J. Trump or Fredo Corleone?
2017: a year of “Trumpery”
Donald Trump has been president of the US for a full year. He finishes his first year in office with a historically low approval rating within his own country, historically low confidence in the US being able to fulfill its traditional role of global leadership, a criminal investigation closing in on his advisors and family, unprecedented divisions within the country, a foreign policy running madly off in all directions, and now, a very public discussion as to whether the president really is an incompetent fool. Continue reading “Moving Beyond Trumpery. How to Survive 2018”
Tax policy by Leona?
A long, long time ago, I learned in business school the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Simply, one is legal, one is not. I learned more about the distinction from my first employer, when the company deferred indefinitely the payment of a full year of income tax by essentially forming a partnership with itself. That was avoidance. And it was entirely legal at the time. So was Donald Trump’s claiming of $916 million in business losses to shield his income from taxes for subsequent years, even though the majority of the losses had been absorbed by his bankers, not by him or his companies. So was Apple Inc.’s parking of the bulk of its income in low-tax Ireland, by claiming a corporate residency of…nowhere. So is the wholesale reduction of corporate tax by tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. by housing their IP assets (and hence reported income from those assets) in tax havens. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the most creative, innovative people within these companies are not involved in product design and development – they’re in the tax department. Continue reading “Tax reform, the hard way. How Morneau and Trump screwed it up”
Donald Trump gets a new hat?
The editors of both the New York Times and Scientific American recently expressed their concerns about the fact that the US president can decide unilaterally to launch a nuclear attack against an enemy. Since the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, the president can order a nuclear strike – alone. That is, Donald Trump can exert sole control over a decision to unleash a nuclear arsenal against North Korea, Iran, or any other enemy state. That should frighten everyone, for as Hillary Clinton pointed out during the 2016 campaign, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” Unfortunately, as Alex Wellerstein said in the Washington Post last year, the one sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack would have been to elect someone else. Continue reading “Still unanswered: how to keep the nuclear reins from the hands of an unbalanced president.”
“My offer is this….nothing.”
Ever since Amazon.com announced that it was searching for a location for its “second headquarters,“ cities across North America have been falling over each other trying to make a case for their own sites. In Canada, representatives from Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Waterloo, Montreal and Halifax have all said publicly that they should be considered, and committed to submitting a “bid” for the privilege of hosting a company that promises tens of thousands of jobs, a new focus for technology-driven business, and bragging rights associated with hosting one of the world’s most valuable companies.
To those developing lucrative packages with possible tax holidays, direct incentives, subsidies, and other contributions, I suggest that they instead offer the Michael Corleone package…nothing. Continue reading “A Suggested Bid for Amazon HQ2”
“The superiority of his genius consists in nothing else but an inexhaustible fund of political lies, which he plentifully distributes every minute he speaks, and by an unparalleled generosity forgets, and consequently contradicts, the next half hour. He never yet considered whether any proposition were true or false, but whether it were convenient for the present minute or company to affirm or deny it…”
Hands up – who thinks this refers to one Donald J. Trump? Continue reading “The Art of Political Lying”
Donald Trump likes to characterize people and institutions using simple repeatable epithets that end up sticking like glue – Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Failing New York Times, Weak Jeb, Fake CNN, and now Leaker Comey. These simple insults resonate.
In search of a simple tag to put on Donald Trump, I Iooked at the ones already in play – bully, misogynist, blowhard, ignorant, incompetent, etc. None really captures The Donald fully and completely. He can be any and/or all of the above at any given time. I came to realize that there is, however, one term that does describe the 45th President simply and accurately – one that he himself has used when he wants to completely dismiss an adversary. The word is “loser”. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Donald Trump is a Loser. With a capital “L”. Continue reading “Donald Trump, Loser.”
A few years ago police in Sweden were called to what they were told was a domestic disturbance. Neighbours had heard all sorts of banging, yelling, screaming, swearing and crying coming from a house where a couple lived with their young son, and feared the worst.
The police did not walk into a domestic disturbance; rather, what they found was that the couple had merely been trying to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture, and had run into some difficulty. Hence the banging, the yelling and the swearing. The young child was frightened by all the commotion, and started crying and screaming.
That is the Ikea Effect.
Well, actually it isn’t. Continue reading “The IKEA Effect: Why Going Digital May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up To Be”
While you’ve made your reputation as an internationally-renowned cartoonist, whose Dilbert characters have entertained millions (including me) over more than 25 years, you’ve now thrown your voice into the discussion about anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) climate change. It’s not going well. Your positions seem to be ever-changing, eager to latch onto red herrings, politically-driven arguments, and “alternative facts.” Scott Adams’ Blog now appears to reflect skepticism of the science and the scientists’ ability to form conclusions based on the science – so much so that the blogs are now being quoted by true climate science deniers to support their arguments. I’m writing this to try and get you back on track, out of the clutches of a very powerful, very manipulative climate science denial industry. And, to have you focus more on Dilbert and Wally.
Let’s recap. Continue reading “Responding to Climate Science Skeptics: A Letter to Scott Adams”
“We can do all of this by phone and telex”
In the 1983 film Local Hero, Mac (Macintyre) was sent to Scotland to buy a village, so that his employer, a global oil and gas company, could build an oil refinery on the ridiculously picturesque Scottish coastline. Instead, Mac fell in love with the village, the scenery, the people, the northern night skies and the lifestyle of the place. He couldn’t complete the deal as originally planned, and returned to Houston. But, the final scene suggests that he hadn’t really left the town of Ferness.
The movie didn’t make much of an impact at the box office, but its warmth, charm, and subtle messages of empathy and understanding make it a continuing favourite of many. Al Gore apparently named Local Hero as his favourite movie, perhaps because of its fit within a narrative of environmental stewardship (the oil refinery gave way to a marine institute). The real charm of Local Hero, however, is in its gentle presentation of a narrative whereby Mac realizes that there is much more to life than his Porsche 930, his watch alerting him to conference calls, and an apartment full of high-end quadrophonic audio equipment (the 80s, remember?). The movie presents a storyline whereby Mac starts mixing directly with the locals, and emerges far better for the experience. In a time when we seem to be using technology to reduce and even eliminate human contact from our daily lives, it’s a theme worth revisiting. Continue reading “Social Wellness and e-commerce – Lament for a Local Hero”