Mike Kueber's Blog

December 30, 2014

Does the Silicon Valley need affirmative action?

Filed under: Business,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 1:23 pm
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USA Today is known for superficial reporting and splashy graphics, but today the paper contained an article that seems more suited for the NY Times or Washington Post. In an article titled, “Few minorities in non-tech jobs in Silicon Valley, USA TODAY finds,” the newspaper did extensive research to determine that African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented at three dominant companies in the Silicon Valley – Google, Facebook, and Yahoo – and that this underrepresentation extends not only to technical white-collar jobs, but also to non-technical white-collar jobs.  The article indicated that concomitant over-representation inured to the benefit of whites and Asian-Americans, but failed to provide separate statistics for those two groups, apparently considering them to be a single behemoth for purposes of this article. The article also suggested that women were being shortchanged, but provided no statistics to support this.

After providing statistics, the article quoted several affirmative-action proponents, starting with Jesse Jackson. One of the proponents admitted that their objective was “the dismantling of this myth of meritocracy” and “Ultimately, changing these numbers will be critical to the continued success of the American tech sector, which in turn helps power the national economy.”

All of this suggests the catchphrase made popular in the Lost in Space TV show in 1965 – “That does not compute.” The affirmative action proponents are suggesting that three of the most successful companies in America (and the world) need to fundamentally change so that they better reflect the more bureaucratic, underperforming sectors of the economy. It also calls to mind two comments made by two conservative icons from the 80s:

  • Margaret Thatcher – Socialists are happy until they run out of other people’s money to spend.
  • Ronald Reagan – If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

March 10, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #15 – Pirates of Silicon Valley

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 6:36 pm
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Pirates of Silicon Valley was a made-for-TV movie in 1999 that depicted the roles of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the rise of the personal computer.  It was based on a book titled, Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer.

Although the movie was produced at a time when Bill Gates had become the wealthiest man in the world and Steve Jobs had just returned to a diminished Apple after taking a lengthy sabbatical (with his greatest accomplishments still to come), Jobs is clearly the driving force of the movie (and the development of the personal computer).  By contrast, Gates is portrayed as a nerdy, unscrupulous dweeb, kind of like Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

An example of the unfair characterization occurs when Jobs steals (pirates) critical intellectual property from Xerox – the theft is depicted in the movie as resourceful David taking from dumb Goliath.  But when Gates subsequently steals the same property from Apple, the theft is treated as treachery by a scumbag.     

It is no surprise that Noah Wylie’s portrayal of Steve Jobs resulted in Jobs subsequently inviting him to appear at one of Apple’s annual conventions.  Wylie actually impersonated Job for a few minutes during his keynote speech until the audience was let in on the joke.  I don’t think Bill Gates will be inviting his actor, Anthony Michael Hall, to any Microsoft conventions.

I just finished reading the definitive Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, and the biography naturally is much deeper and more comprehensive in its treatment of Steve Jobs, but the essence of the person in the movie is the same.  A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the book with someone who had only seen the movie, and I was struck by how similar our understanding of Steve Jobs was.  Now I know why.

So, if you want to understand who Steve Jobs was, and you don’t have time to read the book, you can feel assured that watching the movie will provide you with a sound understanding.