Mark Zuckerberg sets an example for entrepreneurs, but is it a good one?

Mark Zuckerberg has infamously downplayed Facebook's responsibilities as a business in the content creation space. Instead, he defends it as a technology platform.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appears for a hearing with the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appears for a hearing with the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Is it time for faith communities to reclaim the role as moral teachers in American business? Let's look at what Mark Zuckerberg had to say during his recent Senate testimony:


“I think the mistake we made is viewing our responsibility as just building tools, rather than viewing our whole responsibility as making sure those tools were used for good.”

Mark’s comment raising an important question in American business: Who today teaches us what’s 'good'?

Having done some work with tech companies, Zuckerberg is the product of a generation that believes human problems are mechanical problems—change the algorithm and you can bring the world together for world peace. That is an entirely novel conception of how to create positive change in the world, and not one widely shared.

Without a common understanding of what is good, American business practices today are simply transactional and focused simply on what is profitable. One smart, young entrepreneur recently pointed out to me a profound observation about the rising generation, “We learned about what’s good in business from the Facebook movie. Basically, it taught us that the morality of leaders matters less than the ability to win. Stealing intellectual property (IP) might cause some problems in the short run, but if you can pull it off you can earn millions and become a celebrity.”

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve provided strategic coaching to over 200 social entrepreneurs. Their innovative business ventures seek to make the world a better place through both social impact and financial return. While there are plenty of places to teach them their business model, there are almost no places in American culture that teach them how to develop their moral leadership.

The collapse of religious affiliation and condescending views toward spirituality among the rising tech generation means spiritual leaders have forfeited their role teaching of the good.

The rising generation is marked by a sincere desire to make a profound social impact. And, at the same time, they continue to score higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and are more depressed and anxious than previous generations. 

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appears for a hearing at the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, who is the CEO of Facebook is appearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The most successful social venture leaders I’ve worked with have found their moral compass usually through three primary paths: family, faith or through their own personal search. Most have tried and failed at something; have worked through a “long dark night of the soul.” They have built up a powerful, non-transactional social network and exhibit the traits of humility, curiosity and integrity.

In addition to my work with social ventures, I pastor a Swedenborgian church in downtown DC. This past year, we hosted a series of dinners and a gathering of “spiritual entrepreneurs” from around the country. Their vision is to marry together the process of building your social venture business model, including business plan and fundraising while also developing their inner, spiritual life through prayer, service and purpose work. All houses of worship should consider this as part of their mission.

The global challenges facing the rising generation are daunting. To change the world, we all need to work to become better people and create sound business models as we humbly moving forward to become tools for good.

Rich Tafel is Managing Director at Raffa Social Capital Advisors, Pastor of Church of the Holy City and Co-Founder to The American Project at Pepperdine School of Public Policy.

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

'Deep Nostalgia' AI brings old photos to life through animation

Using machine-learning technology, the genealogy company My Heritage enables users to animate static images of their relatives.

Deep Nostalgia/My Heritage
Technology & Innovation
  • Deep Nostalgia uses machine learning to animate static images.
  • The AI can animate images by "looking" at a single facial image, and the animations include movements such as blinking, smiling and head tilting.
  • As deepfake technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, some are concerned about how bad actors might abuse the technology to manipulate the pubic.
Keep reading Show less

When does an idea die? Plato and string theory clash with data

How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic?

Credit: araelf / Matthieu / Big Think via Adobe Stock
13-8
  • How far should we defend an idea in the face of contrarian evidence?
  • Who decides when it's time to abandon an idea and deem it wrong?
  • Science carries within it its seeds from ancient Greece, including certain prejudices of how reality should or shouldn't be.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast