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Corporate Ethos from the Top-Down

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick issued an apology and stepped down from his position as Chief Executive Officer after a video surfaced of him getting in an argument with his personal Uber driver and then shortly telling the man that some people don’t like to take individual responsibility.

This incident represented yet another stain on the company in a trail of sexual harrassment, discrimination, and pushing the envelope in legal and ethical boundaries. It also raises the question of how much the individual morality or personal ethics of a leader affects the corporate ethos or environment of the business culture. The ethos, or corporate climate, also winded up having an impact on the entire tech start-up industry itself, as evidenced by the avalanche of sexual harrassment revelations this week. Uber has also been found in violation of intellectual property laws and local/international driving regulations. My college mentor always mentioned that it’s naturally much easier to bring people down (e.g. from a chair) than to hoist them up. So it is with individual morality in an environment of corporate depravity.

 

Morality in the Wild, Wild Westworld

Many people divide morality up into categories of right and wrong. But this simplistic outlook may represent an infantile ethic.

In the HBO original series, “Westworld” (2016), guests in a futuristic theme park are allowed and encouraged to explore a land without ethical boundaries. However, a more mature moral system comprising nuances and qualifiers layered with categories of good, better, and best may be more realistic . . . an objective world devoid of absolutes, consisting of a continuum of ideals. In this moral landscape, we are neither robots nor androids, but human creations creatively endowed with the capability and privileged power of freedom and choice.

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Tesla Corporation deals with first death involving Autopilot system as Ethical distinction comes into play: Prospective Litigation (liability) versus Moral Culpability (murder indictment))

driverless carThe Tesla Corporation had its first death recently, putting a dark blemish on the nascent driverless car technology, and its vision of an accident–free society. It is indeed interesting to note that the issues holding these driverless cars from the market are NOT primarily technological NOR pragmatic–but ethical.  In  other words, if the Tesla automobile is forced to “choose” to hit someone, whom shall it collide with? It is simple to program the Tesla to slam into a tree versus Tammy Tatreau; but what if the “choice” were between an acquaintance and a second cousin named Tammy? Whom shall the Tesla hit? Who ought to live and/or get hurt? Until the automotive engineers and ethicists answer these questions, it may be wise to refrain from purchasing stock in driverless technology.

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Illegal, Immoral, or Inappropriate Questions?

Eli Apple, highly touted Defensive Back of the Ohio State Buckeyes, and top NFL draft prospect was allegedly asked in an interview about his sexual preferences / orientation — a clear legal violation and inappropriate question in the interview hiring process. While both illegal and inappropriate, the question over Apple’s sthexual orientation is not immoral; i.e., it is NOT a query violating moral  conscience nor a matter of ethical debate.  It is important to understand this distinction:  The act is against the law AND a hiring policy violation; but it is not an instance of transgressing a company’s ethical boundaries, despite one’s personal preferences on the matter.

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Groundhog Day


Groundhog Day is a traditional holiday celebrated on February 2, along with a concomitant romantic comedy of the same name groundhogstarring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog rises from his burrow , spring will come early.  If it is sunny, and the groundhog sees its shadow, and retreats back into its burrow, the winter weather will persist for six more weeks.

I absolutely hated this film, its very mention, even years after it came out. I can still hear the annoying radio wake-up call to this day; it even influenced my initial prejudice against viewing the Edge of Tomorrow (which contains parallel repetitive plot lines.

My family friend / hair stylist urged me to give this movie a second chance (as she adored the flick!). Since I frequently write on redemptive themes, I thought a two hour reinvestment was certainly worthy of a final viewing, so to speak. I hesitatingly placed the DVD on the tray,bracing myself for additional moments of visual torture and  punishment.  Surprisingly I found this particular viewing not only bearable but incredibly sweet, and I’m glad I was “forced” to watch Groundhog Day one more time! Bill Murray’s actions seemed to embody Jack Nicholson’s line from his and Helen Hunt’s romantic comedy . . . As Good as it Gets: “You make me want to be a better man.”

Thank you Andrea Ortiz for making me want to be a better writer!

The Monday Morning Business Ethicist

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Philosophy of Phantasy Phootball

Black Friday

Black FridayGiven the title of this blog, I suppose it would be more appropriate to write about Cyber Monday, but in discussing business ethics, I suppose that Black Friday is apropos.  The day after Thanksgiving is historically and traditionally cited as the biggest shopping day of the year for many businesses  . . . and their corresponding pre-Christmas sales are being pushed back farther and farther  each year,  interrupting many family meals. While this fact alone may be a moral issue per se, it is interesting to note how obsessed our nation has become with getting a good deal (even though these discounts  ultimately may not be a bargain at the end of the day). The truth is that this national “holiday” represents an event filled with high volume traffic and some shoppers and employees risk harm (and even their earthly demise) in order to save some money.

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Adeline’s True Age

Lionsgate have released a trailer for The Age of Adeline . The film ...After miraculously remaining 29 years old for nearly eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford) threatens to uncover reality, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever. This Kantian decision, to tell the truth always, irrespective of the consequences, ironically sets her free from the bondage and chains of time.

Yellow is the New Black!

Fresh Off The Boat [FOB] is the latest TV series attempt to diversify and reach out (i.e., market a specific product to a particular target audience) to a sliver of America’s racial/ethnic spectrum while still appealing to the dominant white base.  On one hand, a problem is that this show, like so many preceding it (e.g. Bonanza to Native Americans, and Sanford & Son to African Americans) remained successful because each resonated with  the apparent stereotypes it tried so hard to break down. On the other hand, these nuances limited each television series from advancing beyond beneficial boundaries of a true color-blind sitcom (cf. The Cosby Show).

Yet, while FOB is a necessary move toward cracking “the banana barrier,” this sitcom is a required first step in achieving Asian-American assimilation and acceptance.  Before reaching these final two resting points, a tenuous and shaky middle ground like FOB remains adequate for its intended purpose.

XLIX Ethics

With all this hoopla and outcry over the last few moments of the Superbowl, a casual observer could be led to believe that something (even of moral or ethical import) went seriously wrong.  Talk radio was abuzz assigning blame and finger pointing to the now-infamous “call” ( the Seattle Seahawks’ final offensive play was overanalyzed myriad ways. As a lifelong Hawks fan, it’s easy to look at the wrong end of a 28-24 Superbowl result, and cry “foul.” We wish to blame officials, coaches, coordinators, and/or other players or appeal to the zebra suits or a higher power for assistance in overturning the results. But the decision wasn’t a moral move, and definitely not an ethical one–even though it seems as if something went drastically awry.   The play could be described at best as unwise, and at worst foolish. Even the coaches and players ultimately assumed personal responsibility (see Russell Wilson’s and Kam Chancellor’s response in particular: http://www.fieldgulls.com/…/seahawks-players-react-to-super…

I’m sad (and probably tasted a small portion of what it felt to be a Green Bay Packers devotee a couple weeks ag0 in the NFC Championship; but the Seattle Seahawks will be back in the big game again. Or at least they ought to be . . .  See y’all in San Francisco next year. But when the emotions die down, we will realize that we failed to capitalize on a good play call against a goal line defense (designed to stuff the run (Marshawn), and Malcolm Butler made a mad play (deserving the MVP keys of that truck).  Congratulations to the New England Patriots for winning one of the greatest championships in recent memory. It was a classic battle  truly deserving of the term Super Bowl.