Saturday, November 26, 2011

Debates, The DMV, Genius and day to day...

Watching the Republican debates and seeing the likes of Perry, Cain, Bachmann et al. I have the same feeling I get when I go to the DMV or to Costco, or to the post office or to a third world country - a feeling that there is a flaw in the design, though given the setting, the dysfunction seems organic and culturally interesting - the result of certain parameters that dictate behavior and expectations that require you to suspend disbelief and accept the lunacy. As my friend, Alexis, commented the other day (I am paraphrasing, she said it better, less caustic)- it's as if Palin opened the barn door of stupid and now stupid is seen as a positive. They should rename them the Banana Republic Debates.

We have learned that Steve Jobs put off cancer treatment while first pursuing fruitarian therapy. Very bad unscientific decision coming from a genius. Alexis and I wondered if this means that his Apple genius might have been less genius and more about finding the right market for his obsession. There are lots of examples of really successful people believing in really wrong things. It takes a certain delusional obsession to take the big bets that can lead to becoming a zillionaire. And like the Palin effect - once crazy works, crazy no longer seems crazy (often the dazzling hedge fund managers of one or two years crash spectacularly the next). Once you are wildly successful in business, cinema, religion, politics (anything?) it seems that going forward it can be challenging to be rigorously honest about your own character defects and personal moral inventory. Let's just say that no matter how many true believers a guru might have I would find it hard to use the words "enlightened being" and "chain smoker" in the same sentence.

Anoher example that presses my skeptical button is the guy who founded PayPal, Peter Thiel, a billionaire with some odd notions - universally lauded as a genius. PayPal was a brilliant secure on-line payment program that filled a need in internet commerce - (Thiel made $50 million when he sold PayPal to eBay - he then invested, on a lark, $500,000 in his friend, Mark Zuckerberg's, Facebook start up - that stake is now worth an estimated $1.7 billion) but does that combo of luck/genius/timing outweigh being a born again libertarian whose latest project (along with Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman) is called SeaSteading - investing in sea worthy free standing oceanic platforms as autonomous experimental communes in international waters?

Day to day life in the trenches doesn't stand a chance.

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