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The importance of a developmental view of our enemies 2010-May-17 at 11:09 PDT

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Combat Generation: Trying to work with an Afghan insurgent, by Greg Jaffe, 17-May-2010

The offer came from an insurgent known as Mullah Sadiq, who had been on the U.S. kill-capture list since 2005. [Lt. Col. Robert B.] Brown assumed that some fighters aligned with Sadiq had taken part in the assault.

Sadiq wanted 50 assault rifles, $20,000 and a promise that U.S. forces would not kill him. In return, he promised to turn against more-radical Taliban insurgents and to begin to work with the Afghan government.

Sadiq’s proposition gave Brown a chance, however tentative, to achieve a victory of sorts in his corner of Afghanistan and redeem the loss of his men.

"This has the potential to work," Brown told his commander.

This is the kind of creative thinking and perspective-shifting that our troops are faced with every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and everywhere else we’ll deploy the SysAdmin force.  Those who are considered enemies can be, in these messy and shifting situations, our allies, and all for far less than the cost of having a single soldier in theater.  The fact that our Lt. Col. Brown warmed to this proposal, even from a first-tier or flatland perspective on development, is a powerful testament to his own openness and creativity, and makes me incredibly happy that he’s on our side.

Imagine how many more commanders would be able to make this leap if they knew a little bit about vertical development?  What if we trained our military leaders with the basics of Integral philosophy?  What if they had at least heard of the idea of Spiral Dynamics or developmental psychology?

All of this is coming, I promise.  The military is incredibly fast to adopt useful ideas and run with them.  And with that will come a smoother, more predictable and repeatable SysAdmin process wherever it’s required.

In the SysAdmin world, a medal for NOT firing your weapon 2010-May-16 at 17:27 PDT

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Hold fire, earn a medal, by William H. McMichael, 12-May-2010

U.S. troops in Afghanistan could soon be awarded a medal for not doing something, a precedent-setting award that would be given for “courageous restraint” for holding fire to save civilian lives.

The proposal is now circulating in the Kabul headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, a command spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

“The idea is consistent with our approach,” explained Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis. “Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan, that restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions.”

In the SysAdmin force, which will be deeply embedded in civilian areas everywhere it deploys, military personnel face difficult decisions every day around the use of force.  Highlighting the importance of restraint in that decision-making process is a natural and simple evolution in how these troops are trained.  I look forward to seeing the first of these presented.

As for the objections in the article – “The enemy already hides among noncombatants, and targets them, too. The creation of such an award will only embolden their actions and put more American and noncombatant lives in jeopardy.” – well, our troops already face these decisions.  Nothing about the creation of this award makes their lives more difficult than they already are.

Writing the Great American non-Novel 2010-May-12 at 12:37 PDT

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I don’t read much fiction.  With a couple of notable exceptions, I’ve never been moved by fiction.  I get done reading a work of fiction, and I always think, “You know, you could have said that in like 20 pages.”  So I never really understood the desire of writers to “write the Great American Novel”… I didn’t know what they were trying to accomplish, or why they even wanted to, or what in their experience made them think it was worthwhile.

I just caught an interview on Charlie Rose with Norman Mailer’s widow, and in it, he showed a clip from Norman where he talked about how he thought that he had written some good novels, but that he hadn’t written the “Great American Novel” yet… the one that people would read and it would change their lives.

The only work of fiction that did that for me was The Fountainhead, but I was 16 when I first read it, and interestingly enough that book doesn’t ever make it to the list of “Great American Novels”.  Every time I’ve read a “great” novel since then I’m just bored… not interested in the characters, not interested in the story, forcing my way through it.

What has moved me, over and over, is non-fiction.  The books that have had the most impact on me have always been prose, and always non-fiction.  Until today, I simply couldn’t imagine that that wouldn’t be true for someone else… that they would be moved far more by fiction than non-fiction.  It still seems a little weird to me, but that’s why we’re all different, I guess.  And then it clicked… I’ve read lots of “Great American” (and foreign) books, but they just weren’t novels; for me, they were non-fiction.

And since I now understand this… I think it’s worth stating a new goal for my book.  I want to write the Great American non-Novel.  I want to write the book that people read and get excited about.  I want it to change perspectives on their lives, on their communities, and on the universe.  In musical terms, I want to write intelligent pop.

And I want it to happen with my first book, although I don’t want to be the cliché of the person who writes his great first book and then tries to live up to it for the rest of his life.  I suspect there will be more good ones.

But I may as well publicly state this: the first book is going to be great.  I won’t settle for anything less.

Samsung to invest $21B in new technology businesses 2010-May-10 at 23:41 PDT

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Samsung to invest US$21 billion in solar cells, LEDs, more, by Dan Nystedt, 11-May-2010

The 23.3 trillion Korean won (US$21 billion) investment is aimed at developing five new businesses that the company expects to create 45,000 new jobs and generate 50 trillion won in annual revenue for affiliate companies by 2020, Samsung said in a statement Tuesday.

The company has earmarked 6 trillion won [$5.3B] of the amount for solar cells, using crystalline silicon technology and thin film technology. Another 5.4 trillion won [$4.7B] will be used for rechargeable batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and 8.6 trillion won [$7.6B] will go to LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology for a range of power-saving applications, from computer screen backlights to car electronics and indoor/outdoor lighting.

On the medical side, Samsung will invest 2.1 trillion won [$1.8B] in biopharmaceuticals and 1.2 trillion won [$1.0B] in electronic healthcare equipment, starting from external diagnostic tools such as blood testing devices.

Let’s go over this again.

Five new multi-billion dollar business to step up and own these important emerging markets… markets that will be important over at least the next four decades.  This is exciting stuff.

Can you name a U.S. company that’s going to do anything like this?  I’ll be honest, I can’t.  But it’s important to know where we are as a nation right now in terms of being competitive in these areas, isn’t it?

Betty White on “Saturday Night Live” 2010-May-10 at 22:51 PDT

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Just had to say… if you haven’t seen SNL from this week with Betty White, you should.  I think it’s the best episode of SNL ever.

Yeah, I said it.

Basically, the atmosphere was that SNL decided to throw a big party for everyone.  We asked for Betty White, we got it.  And lots of people came back to support the effort and celebrate.  And they even brought in one of the biggest pop stars in the world, Jay-Z, and let him run with like a 10-minute medley before Weekend Update.  All of the writers stepped up, and there wasn’t a bad sketch all night.  Even in the sketch time slots that you know are traditionally weak, like the one right after Weekend Update.  That one was good.  And the one right before the sad piano music, that lets you know the show is ending — you know, the one that you already knew would suck, but you watched because, aahhh fuck it, you’ve already watched almost the entire episode, you may as well just watch the last one too — you know, that one?  Even that one was good.

And… I hate to say it… even MacGruber was good.  Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Somebody actually made a fucking MacGruber movie?!?  Seriously?!?”  Because I’m thinking it too.

But… oh yeah, where were we? Betty White… yeah, she was amazing, and it was the best SNL of all time.  Really.  It was.

And if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, at least watch her talk about her muffin.

The United States gets nothing out of shaming Karzai 2010-May-10 at 12:36 PDT

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Obama makes personal diplomacy part of Afghan strategy, by Scott Wilson and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, 9-May-2010

President Obama has bluntly instructed his national security team to treat Afghan President Hamid Karzai with more public respect, after a recent round of heavy-handed statements by U.S. officials and other setbacks infuriated the Afghan leader and called into question his relationship with Washington.

Karzai’s meeting with Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday will be the centerpiece of a rare extended visit. Over the next four days, Karzai and many of his senior cabinet ministers will be publicly embraced and privately reassured by Obama of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, which officials say will endure long after American forces begin leaving in July 2011.

Karzai has been frightened by the deadline, U.S. officials acknowledge. Obama intends to devote much of his meeting with him to spelling out a long-term relationship that includes far fewer U.S. troops but deeper diplomatic and economic support.

This is a simple, brilliant move by the President.  So let’s just state the obvious truth:

Did Karzai steal the election?  Yeah, probably.

Is his brother completely corrupt?  It sure looks that way.

Does the United States benefit from continuing to remind them of that?  Uh, well… no.  Not at all.  We get absolutely nothing from it.

How can we get the level of cooperation from this government that we absolutely need if we keep reminding them that we don’t like them and don’t think they’re legitimate?  What difficult things will they be willing to do for us if we treat them like this?  What do they expect from us in this situation?

Let me emphasize this sentence: “Karzai has been frightened by the deadline, U.S. officials acknowledge.”  If you were frightened by something that you had to accomplish, and the very people that you’re counting on to help you accomplish it are publicly calling you corrupt and illegitimate, how would you feel?  Would you trust the very people who are criticizing you to be invested completely in your success?  I wouldn’t… and so you start to understand why President Karzai threatened last month that he might even join with the Taliban in trying to govern.

Conservatives generally like to treat foreign policy as a matter of national interests… personalities only matter to the extent they get in the way of talking about true interests.  Liberals generally like to treat foreign policy as if it were a matter merely of psychology… just be nice to people and try to understand them, good things will come.  The Integral perspective is: they’re both true, it just depends on the situation.  It depends on the level of development of the players, and the level of development of the nations involved, and the overall amount of pressure that’s involved in the given negotiation.

In this case, President Obama wisely reconciles the positions by realizing that the psychological aspects of this are getting in the way of our national interests, and ultimately the national interests of Afghanistan as well.  So when the United States says nice things about Karzai… recognize that it’s good for both of us that we do, and if it makes you shift uncomfortably in your seat when you hear it, try to take the broader view that the White House is taking.

On leaving Microsoft 2010-May-08 at 08:52 PDT

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Yesterday was my last day at Microsoft, and I suppose that, given such an important life transition, I should capture a few words.

First of all, I love the company, as much as anyone could love a company. I always wanted to work there.  I believe in their mission.  I believe they are uniquely qualified to make a tremendous impact on computing and the way we interface with computers over the next two decades, at least.  No company in the world invests more in R&D than Microsoft, and IIRC Microsoft accounts for 3% of the total R&D in the United States.

I also really love their products, with few exceptions.  They deliver incredible enterprise and business functionality in a fairly user-friendly way.  The consumer products (I’m typing in Live Writer) are also getting really good.

So I don’t have anything bad to say.  What I can say is that after looking around the company for other jobs, and looking into my heart, I’m just not quite a fit there.  I’ve got a unique set of skills and perspectives around technology that are, by almost anyone’s standards, both broad and deep.  As I interviewed around the company, I kept running into groups that looked for even more depth than I have in very specific areas, and didn’t care at all about my breadth and experience.  And, ultimately, I didn’t want to dive into that much depth without getting a chance to leverage my broad experience in interesting ways.

I’m not in resistance to that… just observing it.  Microsoft is an incredibly successful company, they’ve gotten there doing what they’re doing. Recognizing that I’m not exactly fitting in, as happily as I’d like to, is just giving myself the ability to stop struggling while trying to.

As soon as it became clear to me that I should leave, though, an enormous weight was lifted.  I feel energized, I feel excited, I feel alive.  I can’t wait to get started on my new life.  And I’m grateful for what I have learned in my time at Microsoft… much of it will be useful to me as I continue down this new path.

And now that writing this book and blogging here are crucial parts of what I’m doing, look for a lot more traffic.  A lot more.