from the world's big
What Today’s CEOs Could Learn From Cornelius Vanderbilt
T.J. Stiles: Well, first of all I want to be very clear that I'm not an authority on the current financial scene and I don't think that I could reasonably cast a blanket, either condemnation or defense for today's corporate managers. I think there are plenty of companies that are honestly and effectively run. And the American economy certainly continues to be a great magnet for investment and for faith around the world. So when we criticize corporate managers I think in all fairness, you know, for myself I see myself as no ideology. I see myself as a historian first and foremost when it comes to analyzing the evidence. Being honest, looking at all sides of an issue so when I bring that to the modern world I have to say we can't go over the top in any direction.
One of my concerns as someone who has studied the 19th Century and is not looking at today's world, is the distance that exists between for example Cornelius Vanderbilt's attitude toward his responsibilities as the chief executive of a corporation, towards his shareholders. And what - and again what appears to me, not as a student but as a informed observer, the attitude of some CEOs in today's large corporations, specifically when it comes for example to compensation. Vanderbilt took no salary and no bonuses as a chief executive of his corporations. The only remonetization he got was in dividends. Now you can't duplicate that model today because today's investors expect the share price to grow.
They expect the actual assets to increase in value and that's what investors look for. Dividends are a secondary issue at best. In Vanderbilt's day and I look in my book the theories of why this is so at the time, dividends are what investors wanted, so in order to have a healthy company, to have a highly valued company, you had to return a large share of your profits every year in large dividends to your investors. Vanderbilt was a major, often majority shareholder in his companies and so his only income came from dividends which meant that he had to make his companies profitable year end and year out. And that he only got the remuneration that came from running a healthy, productive company that was profitable.
In today's world the, you know, there's many different companies with many different compensation structures and yet we often see that - a very different attitude. For example, because growth and sort of vaguer ideas about what represents - what contributes to the value of a share potential, you know, market share, growth and the potential for growth. A lot of things that don't have to do with actually having a healthy underlying financial outlook for the company, a CEO can be rewarded by creating the perception that a company is healthy and growing and promises great things in the future. And actually could potentially running it into the ground, and yet gets rewarded because he's creating... he or she is creating this perception.
In Vanderbilt's day... of course Vanderbilt as a major shareholder would benefit by perceptions as well but again most of his income - most of his wealth came from steady return on the profits in his company—a share of the profits in his company. Whereas in today's world that's necessarily the case. Another troubling factor which our course creates a potential for a CEO not doing right by a shareholders in the end, another potential problem is the fact that in the modern world management is removed from ownership. And CEOs today often have the ability to basically pick their own boards. The oversight of what the CEO and the way the other executives are doing is often very limited.
Often shareholders have very little say over who is managing their company and sometimes this leads to, this is fine. You know, you have a professional manager who's conscientious and does great things with the company. We can't make blanket statements and yet the removal of management from ownership creates a potential for self-dealing, a conflict of interest. And throughout history we repeated see this so this is troubling to me in way that, for example the shear size of executive compensation is not as troubling. Of course, I love the ideal of having a very equal society but in a corporate capitalist economy what troubles me most is when there's a conflict of interest and the people who are running a company have no oversight. And there's no one looking over their shoulder, there's no one there an- in practical terms, they're answerable to.
And when you have that situation then you have somebody who's potentially taking money that rightfully belongs to the shareholders. And the terminology that they use in Vanderbilt's time is very interesting. They would refer to the shareholders as the owners. They didn't talk about, you know, the shareholders, they talked about owners and they referred to the company as your property in their annual statements for example. And this is very important, this is having that attitude as a CEO keeps you honest. And being able to run the management out of town if necessary, you know, having that threat is important, I think to keep something healthy. We have that in politics and we have enough trouble in politics as it is.
And we need that in corporate management as well. So I don't want to make a blanket condemnation, it's just that of today's executives. When we do have problems and we do have controversies I often think it's connected to the fact that a lot management of large corporations are no longer answerable to people that actually own the company. And when that happens I think that's when trouble often steps in.
Recorded May 25, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Problems in corporate America are often connected to the fact that management is no longer answerable to the people who actually own their companies.
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.