Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

In Search of 21 Influential Thinkers

Monday, December 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison ... who are their 21st Century counterparts?

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

A few weeks ago, in a burst of subtle synchronicity, Elon Musk was removed as board chairman of Tesla at the same time John Flannery was removed as chairman and CEO of General Electric. Since both companies were struggling in different ways, the firings, while surprising, were not shocking.

The surprise in Musk’s case was that he was forced out by actions taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which actually fined him and the company $20 million apiece for false statements Musk tweeted about financing to take the 21st century startup company private. Musk stayed on as CEO, but it’s nice to see the SEC is paying attention.

In Flannery’s case, he had only been on the job for a year, which seemed to many Wall Street analysts not nearly enough time to breathe life into the moribund, more-than-century-old company.

So, a reliable old company, with a household name, a onetime giant of household appliances and energy, but which has seen better days, and a new, hotshot company, with a sexy name, electric cars, solar panels, a colorful leader with an eye on dominating the next century of energy production, were both having trouble making their stockholders happy. That’s Wall Street, you say. How are the simultaneous takedowns of their bosses anything more than coincidence?

To many observers it won’t be. But to those who recall that Thomas Edison was one of the founders of General Electric and that Tesla Inc, is named after Nikola Tesla, Edison’s arch-rival for credit in discovering electricity as well as profiting from the discovery, well, perhaps it’s just another example of their names and future being linked by some invisible yet undeniable force. Like electricity.

Or synchronicity.

Were he still with us in more than name and spirit, I think Tesla would agree. Consider this statement from the visionary inventor: “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

Of all the non-physical phenomena, perhaps the most common and least explored is “coincidence.” Carl Jung made some significant efforts, but more “traditional” science has for the most part ignored what it cannot easily explain.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be an effort to do so.

Tesla first entered my consciousness in more than a vague, yeah-I’ve-heard-of-him kind of way, eight years ago. I had recently retired and begun wading into the world of blogging. When you write daily editorials for 23 years, it’s difficult to go cold turkey. One day, a couple of friends who actually read my blog gave me a challenge: Come up with a list of the 20 most influential thinkers of the 20th Century.

Not a bad idea. Challenging and a good way to engage readers by asking for suggestions.

“Nikola Tesla,” my friend Ernie suggested when I put out the call for nominations. “He should be on the list. He invented electricity and radio; he just didn’t get credit because he was a terrible businessman and didn‘t know how to promote himself.”

As it turned out, the one who “got credit” and a good deal more, was Thomas Edison, who I had wisely put on my first, tentative list. Connection made. Eventually, Edison, who gave us the incandescent light bulb, and Tesla, who contributed alternating current, both made the list. Yes, Edison was the better businessman and Tesla the more visionary thinker.

But Edison’s heirs, if you will, eventually lost their way, venturing into health insurance and buying NBC-TV, among other non-power-related ventures. Meanwhile, the company that took Tesla’s name for inspiration, has been true to his visionary approach and, in hiring Musk, apparently, also true to the Tesla disregard for conventional wisdom and clumsiness with business affairs. Must be a coincidence.

What’s the point?

I’m looking for a new list of thinkers, this one for the 21st century. The question: Who are the Teslas and Edisons and Jungs who will shape the way we live in the rest of this still young century?

As with the 20th Century list, I need your help. This is a cooperative venture. It’s kind of what social media is best suited for. In fact, I will start the working list with names of thinkers who make this venture possible: Bill Gates (who made the 20th Century list), Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs.

Others who are having profound influence on our lives: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the aforementioned Elon Musk, who at least seems to aspire to Tesla’s legacy. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, is working on a new, privacy-focused web to rival the world of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

But there’s more to life than technology and shopping. As Jung explored coincidence and synchronicity, so now do Mooji, Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira and Deepak Chopra make us think about the nature of reality — the “non-physical phenomena” of which Nikola Tesla spoke. Author/essayist Rebecca Solnit has become the voice many people seek out for an explanation on a variety of complex subjects. Are there other authors, political leaders (77-year-old Bernie Sanders, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?), scientists, philosophers, poets, artists, inventors, business leaders or anyone else you think will have profound influence on the course of this century? Please share and I will share and eventually come up with a list of 21 influential thinkers for the 21st Century.

As a possibly useful prod, I include the list we came up with eight years ago. Of course, looking back is much easier than looking ahead, but compiling a list of those we think will be influential in the 21st century actually makes us part of the process of shaping things to come.

The 20th Century thinkers list:
Albert Einstein
Gandhi
Henry Ford
The Wright Brothers (count as one)
Thomas Edison
Picasso
Nikola Tesla
Mark Twain
James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin (DNA trio count as one)
Winston Churchill
Philo Farnsworth
Rachel Carson
George Orwell
Sigmund Freud
Carl Jung
Bill Gates
Margaret Sanger
Bertrand Russell
Bob Dylan
T.S. Eliot

I know these are stressful times, but if we all contribute in a positive way to the Greater Consciousness, it just might relieve some stress. Email or comment. Don’t be bashful.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bagels and Farts, Hold the Dressing

Monday, May 14th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

Mr. Methane

“So you know how some people use religion to say that gay marriage should not be allowed and others say that as long as it doesn’t affect them they don’t care, that it should be an individual choice?”

“Yeah.”

“OK. So you know how people add dressings — Russian, Italian, ranch — when they eat salads?”

“Yeah.”

“So how come when I eat my salad with no dressing people look at me funny and tell me I’m weird? Isn’t that my individual choice?”

“Nothing at all?”

“Nothing.”

(Long pause for effect.) “No … you’re weird. That’s just messed up. A salad with no dressing? Dry? How about oil and vinegar?”

“I hate vinegar. I do put ketchup on my lettuce, though. And it’s tomato ketchup.”

“Eww. That’s disgusting. What’s wrong with you? This sounds like it might stem from some repressed childhood crisis.”

“But it’s tomato ketchup.”

* * *

The two Bobs have been meeting over coffee and buttered, toasted sesame bagels for some time, figuring out what’s wrong with the world, how it easily could be fixed if someone would only let them and agreeing that their sons were going to do whatever the hell they pleased, so it made no sense to worry about them. Although they did.

This particular morning, there was a shortage of weighty topics, though and having exhausted salads without dressing they moved on to dinosaur farts.

“So,” says the Bob who likes dressing on his salad, “I saw this report from the BBC. It says the dinosaurs, in effect, farted themselves into extinction.”

“What?”

“Yeah. You know how cows produce an incredible amount of methane, which is the scientific name for cow farts, and methane is one of those greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming?”

“Yeah. OK …?”

“Well, some scientists in England figured if cows today produce 50 million to 100 million cubic tons of methane a year, which sounds like a s**tload of methane, the biggest dinosaur species, like the Brachiosaurus, must have created even more.”

“Seriously, they got money to study this instead of why boring soccer games cause riots?”

“Yeah. A bunch of scientists from universities in England and Scotland figured out mathematically that the big dinosaurs that lived about 150 million years ago created about 520 million cubic tons of gas every year, which must have really stunk up the joint. But they say it also made the earth much warmer — 18 degrees hotter — than it is today and that helped melt the ice caps and glug, glug, no more dinosaurs.”

“No s**t?”

“No. And if you remember your biology, those dinosaurs were vegetarians.”

“So?”

“So it mean they were basically eating salads without dressing and farting themselves to death. A cautionary tale if there ever was one.”

“Eat your bagel.”

“Fine. Wanna hear some good news on the save-the-earth front?”

“Sure.”

“OK, so some students and professors from Yale were apparently wandering through the Amazon rain forest on an educational expedition and found fungi that — get this — eat plastic.”

“Get outta here.”

“Really. There’s a paper on it. They gathered up a bunch of plants and snooped around inside them and found a couple of fungi that eat and digest polyurethane. In fact, they don’t need anything else to survive. And you know the greenies keep telling us we’re going to be buried alive in polyurethane. Maybe the fungi can save us.”

“Well, I guess that would be a good thing. But is polyurethane even a plastic?”

“I don’t know. I think so, but that’s not the point. When did you become such a science whiz anyway? The point is, it’s in everything we use and throw away. Maybe the fungi can be used to get rid of some of it. Cool, huh?”

“Yeah, great. But tell me this — what happens after the fungi eat the polyurethane?”

“Whaddyou mean?”

“It’s digestion, right? What do the fungi give off as part of the process? Are they putting more methane into the atmosphere?”

“Jeez, I don’t know. But how much could fungi fart in comparison to cows or dinosaurs? And it probably wouldn’t smell as bad.”

“Yeah, probably not. All right, gotta go. See you next week.”

“Right. Hey, maybe try a little honey mustard dressing on your salad next time, instead of tomato ketchup.”

(Part of the preceding actually happened. The rest was made up, but entirely plausible.)

bob@zestoforange.com