Morality

By Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate
CNN, September 16, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

The scientific method advanced human knowledge. Then industrialists brought us a mind-boggling array of inventions and products. We need a third revolution, in ethics.

The scientists did not demonstrate the superiority of faith. The industrialists did not proclaim the superiority of collective sacrifice. Why should we think these ideas are the path to moral enlightenment?

If morality is judgment to discern the truth and courage to act on it and make something of and for your own life, then the great creators are moral exemplars. If morality is a guide in the quest to achieve your own happiness by creating the values of mind and body that make a successful life, then morality is about personal profit, not its renunciation.

Monetary profit is an eloquent representative of morality, because making money requires a profound dedication to material production.

Science, freedom and the pursuit of personal profit — if we can learn to embrace these three ideas as ideals, an unlimited future awaits.
 

Just Manic Enough

By David Segal
The New York Times, September 19, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Imagine you are a venture capitalist. One day a man comes to you and says, “I want to build the game layer on top of the world.”

The man has a passionate speech about a business plan that he says will change the planet by giving humans a new way to interact with businesses and one another. He displays the symptoms of a hypomanic episode.

If he is Seth Priebatsch, you give him a big check. A thin line separates the temperament of a promising entrepreneur from a person who could use psychiatric help. Men like Seth Priebatsch are just crazy enough.

Seth Priebatsch dropped out of Princeton to start Scvngr in 2009. Scvngr today has 60 employees. As of December 2009, it also had $4 million from Google Ventures.

Seth Priebatsch:

"We play games all the time, right? School is a game. It's just a very badly designed game."

"If we can bring game dynamics to the world, the world will be more fun, more rewarding, we'll be more connected to our friends, people will change their behavior to be better."

"The last decade was the decade where the social framework was built. The next decade will be the decade of games."

The Hypomanic Edge
The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America
By John D. Gartner
Simon & Schuster (2005)
 

Greed Is Back

The Sunday Times, September 19, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Remember Gordon Gekko: "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works."

Well, he's back: "Money lies in bed with you at night, pal, one eye open. Money's a bitch that never sleeps."

It's more than two decades since we encountered Gekko in Oliver Stone's 1987 classic, Wall Street. Now, in Money Never Sleeps, again starring Michael Douglas, we rejoin Gekko as he emerges from a jail term for insider trading, securities fraud, and money laundering.

What ate at Gekko during those years in jail was being out of the game. For him, "the game is all there is."

To this day, financiers approach Michael Douglas on the street or in restaurants to slap him on the back and tell him: "You’re the single biggest reason I got into the business. I watched Wall Street and I wanted to be Gordon Gekko. You're the man!"
 

AR  I guess you can see that Brook and Ghate are Randians: the rejoinder to their view that works best for me is to point out that a selfish outlook in which the circle of the self embraces less than the whole is doomed to suboptimality, so the more traditional approach of encouraging selflessness is a more morally productive enabling strategy.

As for looking out for hypomania in wannabe entrepreneurs, who ever doubted that it's a trait that can help you get ahead? The obvious adaptive value of the symptoms of hypomania for a competitive world seems a natural explanation for the persistence of the tendency toward bipolarity in the evolution of human personality traits.

That Wall Street hotshots ("masters of the universe" — no, guys, that's cosmologists) model themselves on Gordon Gekko surprises me not one jot or tittle. Surprising would be if they showed the sense to look higher for role models. By the way, it sounds like Oliver Stone has hired Martin Amis to write the Money Never Sleeps script.