Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Teaching Innovation, Analytics, and Critical Thinking: A Concept Statement


Dr. David E. Martin 
Chairman M·CAM
Managing Partner, Purple Bridge Mangement
Head of Innovation & Transformation, Melbourne Polytechnic
Executive Director, Centre of Applied Innovation at Melbourne Polytechnic
CEO & Chairman, eSurface
Batten Fellow, Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia

On a blustery afternoon at Oyantatambu in Peru, a group of us stood next to the massive stones cut with inconceivable precision marveling at the megaliths left by civilizations past.  “How did they do it?” was the refrain echoing through each mind as we looked upon the complex geometry that stood before us.  A dutiful guide, certified by the Peruvian antiquities authorities, explained the Occidental method involving llama tendons and sand.  Most of the group nodded their head with a mix of incredulity and awe and moved on.  I stepped around one particular stone that, on its face, was rough cut.  On the back side of the stone was a partial cut.  It was highly irregular – clearly not the product of a drawn cord or saw.  In fact, upon closer inspection, it appeared that the grooves were melted in a pattern consistent with the crystalline structure of the stone.  There was no way that the cut I observed could have possibly been the work of a linear slicing mechanism.  If I had to guess, my immediate thought was that it was cut with light or heat.  A laser, possibly?

What’s the point of this story?  Our current education and social systems are oriented around explaining perspective, not critiquing it.  We “know” that the Inca didn’t have the tools we use to manipulate the world so we impose linear historicism on their experience assuming some lesser state.  While the prima facie evidence points to capacities to manipulate matter and energy in unimaginable ways, our narratives rely on modernity to be “more advanced” than some previous condition.  When the evidence through observed phenomenon clearly point to an alternative hypothesis, we come up with llama tendons.   We don’t teach the synthesis of observation and multi-factoral data.  We don’t teach for nonlinearity.  We don’t teach for complexity.  Our deductive processes have become increasingly reductive and, in so doing, we stifle our capacity to adapt and integrate transformative impulses.  We need to engage critical thinking with radical new modalities.

Occidental education has been thus labeled for its aspirational social quality.  From the earliest form of enculturation – the use of language to encipher and decipher social communication – the role of education has been largely focused on the establishment and maintenance of conformity and consensus.  Approved narratives, methods, and inquiries achieve their status based on their utility to efficiently produce surrogate dependency and indentured utility.  The former arising from the reification of “authoritative paradigms” and the latter celebrated as the employable, governable masses.  Punctuated throughout human history are a few radical inflections where, through cultural memetic collisions or through existential threat at scale (most typically war or conquest), the didactic mandate has been subjected to near paroxysmal alteration.  One can consider the Yongle Empire in China and its massive cultural navies that are thought to have played a role in the Renaissance in Europe; the Silk Road which intermingled Asian, Persian and Mediterranean cultures; the intrusive colonial impulse of the Industrial economy pitting immigrants against native cultures across the globe.  More recently, the modern academy was heavily influenced by Germanic institutions of industrial servitude.  Society offers the cognitive power of its youth and, in exchange, receives industrious citizens.  Scholarship often turns on the degree to which social memes are re-narrated with greater precision or conviction.  Regression – the hubris of sets of knowns operating at deterministic scales with the passing acknowledgement of Standard Error or Deviation – is the exclusive agency of sanctioned inquiry.

Digital or multi-variate serial regression produces marginal and incremental adaptations.  At best, we strive to remove unexplained variance from our powers of observation building ever greater confidence in our metrics and their application.  And while we train our mathematicians and statisticians in the assumptions underpinning our regression obsession, we quickly dismiss these as “unattainable” or “untestable” ideals and blithely proceed in the misapplication of our models.  In short, we avoid critical inquiry at all costs and then lament the “unexplained”, the “Black Swan”, the “unexpected”.  We reduce the creative and the innovative to the subtle alteration at the margins and pay no attention to possibility that radical alternative dimensions of inquiry exist outside the “expert” models of our times.  Genuine invention, innovation, and creativity are sacrificed to the inertia of consensus.  We shun non-linear dynamism in favor of linear, progressive historicism. 

How would we contemplate a different educational system in which Innovation and Critical Thinking underpinned the essential experience of the participant?  What attributes of the existing institution would remain and what would require radical transformation or transmutation?  What core technologies – both social and physical – would support this transformative model?  In the pages that follow, I am setting forth a proposal for M·CAM’s (and my) contribution to the School of Innovation, Analytics, and Critical Thinking.

Learning Re-contextualized

The capacity to engage in life-long constructive adaptation is inadequate in today’s educational paradigms.  From the post-World War II obsession with STEM competencies, scholarship has been bifurcated into two equally ineffective tracks.  Economic and social reinforcement for “research” is held to be the pinnacle of professional achievement at the modern academy.  Teaching and relevant application is subservient to research.  While many seek to emulate models of research and education practiced in the U.S. and German educational systems, limited explicit critique is given to these approaches.  The competencies demanded of the academy reinforce the centrality of research assumed to be relevant based on the capacity to have such research funded.  The mechanisms for such funding – largely peer-reviewed grant applications or corporate engagements – dictate the narrow fields of inquiry.  The alliance between State and Corporate patronage insures that only that which is aligned to a fundable objective advances.  If you are a researcher, your job is to advance the linear disciplinary track of consensus dogma.  If you’re a teacher, your job is to produce vocationally competent participants in the labor force.  In neither instance does the academy critique the context in which extant activities – both social nor technical – are operating and challenge context or student in a meaningful inquiry. 

Over the past two decades, M·CAM has pioneered a global initiative called Innovation Literacy.  Within this program, we have three sub-components.  The first is called Heritable Innovation Trust (HIT).  The HIT program was developed to allow students to have immersive, non-interrogatory experiences of living in Communities of Persistence (more conventionally called “Indigenous” or “Aboriginal”).  Living as members of these communities, engaging in their entire social fabric, students were required to live without questions.  “Where is the bathroom?”  “What time is dinner?”  “How do you catch the fish?”  All of these inquiries were explicitly forbidden in favor of allowing the communities’ practices entirely “teach” alternative modes of activity.  Observation and documentation – much like the Natural Philosophy disciplined observation of 150 years ago – are the only technologies introduced into the students’ experiences.  And these engaged only in moments of private reflection.  By teaching non-interrogatory engagement, pre-conditioned assumptions are set aside (that hygiene = bathroom; that time = meals; that humans sit atop natural systems; etc.) and alternative narratives are apprehended.  HIT serves as the foundation of our Innovation Literacy program.  It has been adapted to corporate internships, public policy apprenticeships and the like.  The key outcome of HIT is the power of Contextual Intelligence and Observational Adaptation.

The second Program is Global Innovation Commons (GIC).  GIC is the repository of over $2 trillion of funded research resulting in patents or publications covering fundamental human requirements of food & nutrition; infectious and tropical disease treatment; petroleum alternative energy; and, potable water management.  These patents and publications come from M·CAM’s unique global archive of innovation – the world’s largest – including patents and publications from over 168 countries from the 1700’s to the present.  This archive of human ingenuity serves as a fertile catalyst for relevant systems engineering training.  From practical engineering skills of replication of technologies across the centuries to synthesis training (putting together inter-disciplinary solutions to new contexts), the GIC provides the applied curricular basis for teaching fundamental STEM principles all done in immediate application and relevance.  Examining notions of efficiency, stability, reliability and utility as key learning objectives, with GIC, over 250,000 individuals, institutions and enterprises have repurposed human ingenuity for current commercial and social use.  This also radically alters the illusion that the future of the world is digital and data.  The analogue needs of humanity are brought back into centrality and you’re more likely to see a new water filter as you are to see an iPhone app.

Finally, the third component is Strategic Innovation (SI).  SI is the organization of over 88 million patent-protected expressions of human ingenuity on a platform called M·CAM DOORS®.  This system is built on the backbone of linguistic genomics – a dynamic intelligent machine learning system that uses genetic algorithms to surface explicit and tacit linkages between concepts and interventions.  Realizing that all systems are inter-disciplinary, SI affords instant heterogeneous contextualization of every human undertaking and archives the same across over two centuries.  Rather than imagining disciplines as ever more constricting specialization, SI explicitly shows network and node effects of interconnectedness well beyond conventional “interdisciplinary” constructs.

These three pillars of our Innovation Literacy program seek to achieve several core objectives:

1.       Explicit Contextual Intelligence – rather than training people in digital question / answer linear processing, Innovation Literacy provides immediate applicability of contextual intelligence.  By understanding responses to varying impulses towards ingenuity, relevant learning skills can be apprehended.
2.       Non-interrogatory Observation – critical thinking skills are inaccessible if “thinking” presupposes all “known” conditions and ontologies.  Immersive learning contexts engaged without pre-supposition teach powers of observation and synthesis.  Most of all they train the mind to adapt as an intelligent system in which all senses are explicitly conscripted.
3.       Network Activation – by seeing the omnipresence of ingenuity, the myth of the individual is set aside in favor of the intelligence of the network.  When one sees that a variety of interventions have been manifest by a heterogeneous set of “innovators”, the myth of unique and individuation is deconstructed in favor of collaborative models of synthetic application.

Integrative Assessment

For decades, we have used the technology of Integral Accounting as a means to explicitly measure the “all-in” consequence of human activities.  Rather than measuring the relevance of scholarship and research through the myopia of the “funded”, we adopt an approach that explicitly acknowledges all forms of value exchange.  What follows is an excerpt from the Integral Accounting practice document.

For the past two millennia, many of our consensus human systems have reified Dominion and Control as the basis for understanding our ecosystem.  In his 1776 opus, An Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith buttressed the 1,000 year-old Christian rites embodied within the Doge of Serenissima’s Marriage of the Sea in which all nature – including human beings – are “resources” over which structures of power must exert dominion.  In the Bible account of Creation, the story records the stated hierarchy: “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that crawls upon the earth.”[1]  From these seemingly innocent threads, manacles of indenture have been woven (and worn) and are now strangling our umbilical to life.  Rather than bathing in the cosmic ocean of abundance, we have built systems that manage scarcity (time, resources, order, control, and money) while allowing our power to be transferred to surrogates who construct and maintain their position by the manufacture and perpetuation of fear.  The very word “livelihood” implies that without participation in the prostitution of human energy and effort, life itself would be impaired or impossible.

We can observe the unsustainable essence of domination and its agent of reinforcement, denomination.  We observe the frequent incapacitation of effort that is stymied by inadequacy projected on our impulses.  We would act but for lack of resources or access thereto.  We would adapt but for communal support or inspiration.  We would engage if we only knew how.  We would endeavor if we had the funding.  We would strive if we had the right tools.  We would passionately live if we felt better.  Is there an isomorphic system that would unleash our unfettered humanity in persistent, generative action?  May it be the case that we merely lack a coherent framework in which we can perceive, discern, and engage the abundance in which we’re enveloped and through which we could fully manifest our incarnate potential?  Integral Accounting and our experience in its application suggests that demonstrable, empirical, reproducible regeneration of the human condition is accessible, completely.

The Process:

In our experience, we often begin the process of Integral Accounting with a discussion of light and magnetism.  The Sun, the literal and precise metaphor for persistent, generative, energy and light is understood to be a massive nuclear reactor in which matter is converted into energy which is emitted for the sustenance of all the observable world.  This discussion provides a vital metaphor for our final process which we call “Fusion” inspired by our Sun, nuclear fusion and the work of Charles-Augustin de Coulomb[2].  To unleash a fusion reaction, charged particles in the context of a magnetic field are afforded the capacity to ‘overcome’ their individual charges – the natural forces that keep them in opposition.

To demonstrate the sentience derived from Source, we hold a bar magnet over iron filings.  Gradually, the bar magnet is lowered towards the iron filings until the first filings appear to animate, subtly standing on their ends moving towards the magnet.  Slowly, the magnet is then held at that altitude and passed over the filings to demonstrate that different filings respond variously to the positive and negative poles of the bar magnet.  This demonstration opens a dialogue into non-dual sentience.  Each particle, discerning the field elects to respond or not to the moving charge passing above it.  Then the magnet is lowered a bit closer to the iron filings demonstrating that each filing, at its own discernment, elects to attach to one or the other pole without judgment or symmetric bias. The shape of the filings’ attachment are described by the observers to open the discourse around charges serving an agnostic, sentient role in visibly discerning magnetic fields[3].

We use this demonstration to open a simple, wonderment-filled space for the beginning of the Integral Accounting Audit.

To begin the process, we recommend introducing the six dimensions of value [Commodity; Custom & Culture; Knowledge; Money; Technology; Well-being] using the written summaries that are available on-line.  They are summarized as: – elements present in communities which, through cultivation, production, or value-add, can be used to generate means of social or commercial engagement. Some examples of Commodities are potential energy, food, water and raw materials. & Culture - practices and expressions of individual or community held values and traditions which create a context for social interactions. Some examples of Custom and Culture are expressions of social values, gatherings, interactions, art, music, and ceremonies. - information and experiential awareness which can be transmitted through language, art, or other expressions. Some examples of knowledge are the transfer of information and the expansion of understanding through literacy, marketing, negotiation and stories. - a mode of transmitting and recognizing value exchange using physical or virtual surrogates including currency, systems of credit and barter and engaging any artifact constituting a consensus of recognized value exchange which, itself, is devoid of the value it represents. Some examples of money are currency, trade credits, debt, equity, futures, bonds, and contracts. - artifacts or schemes by which value-added experiences and production can be effectuated including any action, process, thing, or utility which allows for the manifestation of spatially and temporally defined tangible or intangible artifacts or event. Some examples of technology are appliances, tools, logistics, processing, communications, power, and infrastructure. Being - the capacity for any person or ecosystem to function at their optimal level where conditions are suitable for a person to be at liberty to fully engage in any activity or social enterprise entirely of their choosing as and when they so choose. Some examples of well-being are health, sanctuary, medicine, inalienable rights, equitable and gainful engagement, fellowship, and fun.

To begin the auditing process, we find it helpful to provide each participant six sheets of paper, one representing each of the six value attributes.  These become a helpful visual cue for the first organization of abundance impulses.

1.       Integral Accounting Audit:  Identifying Abundance sounds like it should be simple.  For most people, life has made this process subject to considerable filtering.  For the purpose of the Integral Accounting Audit, we encourage people to reflect on everything that they have in their field that exists in abundance.  Abundance is neutral.  A person may have a lot of money and friends, and, in the same instance have a lot of fear and sense of isolation.  All of these “abundances” are explicitly welcome.

Abundance is recorded in writing and is best manifest in an individual, reflective process.  Each thing, attribute, sense, or experience that comes to mind is written on the colored sheet of paper intuitively linked to the value dimension instantly recognized.  It is important not to over think this first classification.  If you think that ‘love’ or ‘computers’ are instantly recognized as ‘Well Being’ and ‘Technology’, respectively, follow the impulse.  The key thing is to write down everything.

Upon completion of the first attempt, stop and reflect on two common errors.  We tend to associate Abundance with ‘Good’ and Scarcity with ‘Bad’.  This binary classification is prone to fallacy.  Free from this judgment duality, invite a reconsideration of the audit to assess whether there are attributes or things that exist in life that are not on the page.  Put them on too.

2.       Polarizing the Optics:  The colors of the Integral Accounting system are intentional.  Each color assists in reflecting wavelengths of energy historically and esoterically associated with the elemental energy represented in each value.  Once filled with identified Abundance, each colored sheet is arranged in the order of the wheel: Yellow, Blue, Purple, Green, Grey, and Red.  Beginning with the Commodity (Yellow) list, each item assigned to that classification is now recast in each of the other dimensions.  A matrix is formed in which each Abundance is described as each other value unit.   In Figure 1 (below) you can see a simple example of the optical matrix which affords the ability to reflect on the energy of each Abundance and its capacity to manifest in other dimensions of value.  It is essential to stay unattached and non-judgmental in this phase too.  Nothing is ‘Good’, ‘Bad’, or any other attribute.  The invitation is to simply see Abundance diffracted through multiple perspectives.  Having done the full diffraction, you return to the first order classifier and offer gratitude for the pathway it illumined.

One can readily see that for maximum value, this experience is engaged over an extended period of time and thoughtful reflection. 

Figure 1.  Audit with Optical Polarization


Custom & Culture


Assembly point
Record of weather
Photosynthesis respirator
Aesthetic beauty

Corporate relations


Statistical modelling


Access to Credit




Meditation Koi pond

3.       Polarizing the Charges:  Once the matrix is fully populated, we move to the second type of polarization – polarizing the magnetic charges.  This is where we engage intuitive judgment in impulsive expression.  A positive (+) or negative (-) sign is placed next to each Abundance in each classification to create the ‘bar magnet’ field which allows choice and action to emerge.  This process begins to inform the perceived net energetic impact of each Abundance.  By allowing each charge to manifest without deep reflection, the intuitive and reflexive senses inform the audit without attempting to force social projections upon the process.

It is informative to spend some time considering any value dimensions in which excessive charges (either + or - ) manifest and allow the observation to open up consideration as to the roots of that hyperpolarization. 

4.       Activation:  Using the fully polarized (optical and magnetic) and charged field, you now have a map of First Order Action.  This First Order Action is the single dimension, abundance, or impulse when, if invited to change its ‘charge’ (positive to negative or vice versa), can unleash persistent, generative action.  Like the iron filing dancing into connection with the bar magnet, allow the field created by the audit (the iron filings) to respond to the field (your magnetism or the magnetism formed in collaboration with others) to unleash sentient action. 

Several graduate schools have now elected to adopt some or all of the Integral Accounting framework into their core curriculum as it addresses both the needs to increase the social responsibility of the academic pursuit as well as create context for applied STEM awareness.  Using the 6-D model of ecosystem engagement, students are given explicit tools to engage their endeavors holistically. 

[1] Genesis 1:26
[2] Coulomb (1785) "Premier mémoire sur l’électricité et le magnétisme," Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, pages 569-577
[3] A video of the magnet demonstration is helpful but, ideally is replicated with an actual magnet and iron filings.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Centre of Applied Innovation at Melbourne Polytechnic - My Mission Statement


For over 250 years, the notion of education has been organized around two dominant consensus memes: economics and social aesthetics.  The former has sought to craft a population that both confirms the industrial hierarchy of consumption-based social engagement in which production and consumption (and the agencies thereof) require order and acquiescence.  The latter has been concerned with the preservation of dominant and marginal expressions of catechisms and constrained creativity.  The former assumes the manipulation and management of elemental and energetic forces for socially approved and ratified experiences.  The latter appeals to the narrowly defined “five senses” which seek to constrain human perception into tactile, acoustic, visual, olfactory, and oral experiences.  Defined by “laws” and “metrics” and by the oddly selected 5/12ths of the cranial nervous roots, education has served as the technology to construct resource and sensory consensus into which individuals within the community find their identity.
With the advent of telecommunications-enabled sensory plurality and the diminution and extinction of resource-based labor models of social order, the economic justification of education has been indicted with the majority of tertiary and post-graduate education failing to retain relevance for rent-based labor pursuits.  And with the heterogeneity and mobility of humanity, the consensus social aesthetics have been indicted with the rapid devolution of sanctioned creativity and social dogma. 
As a result, the opportunity presents to consider a new paradigm in education in which: sensory perception is integrated and expanded; synthetic analytics are refined and tested; and, social integration is aligned towards purposeful engagement.  In other words, what we seek to foster is not a working class to serve the productive and consumptive needs of rent-based consumer industrialism but rather a fully interactive participant in the social enterprise that can create, assimilate, and critique dynamic ecosystems and contribute in an accretive fashion to society. 
To that end, we are building a transformative model of education which is explicitly designed to equip the learner-citizen to have the elasticity and malleable traits to thrive in a rapidly adapting ecosystem.  Rather than relegating individuals based on social, economic, class, ethnic, or cultural taxonomies, our explicit objective is to maximize the integrated capabilities of each learner-citizen to offer maximal utility to the community.  To accomplish this, our programs are designed to:
1.Develop ecosystem IQ to increase the sensory perception and resilience of learners;
2.Develop pluralistic models of adaptive engagement both with the persistent ecosystem as well as social forms and pursuits;
3.Appropriately synthesize legacy knowledge of culture (science, technology, social and physical engineering, and metrics);
4.Clearly articulate value in its exchange for physical and experiential pursuits;
5.Architect and deploy models to enable consensus experiences; and,
6.Maximize the optionality of engagement at liberty in generative and respectful practices.

Moving from the Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill paradigms of rentier, industrialist and laborer to a model of intelligent integrated participant, our efforts will be experiential, participatory, and relevant.  And using our state of the art intelligence, analytical, and application systems, our learner-citizens will be able to apply their learning to pursuits ranging from traditional industries to transformative social impact.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Racism in America – Let Justice Roll Down


I was on the Earth a year before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down.  And while I didn’t ever know him, I certainly knew of him.  My father, Aaron Martin, was active in the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship during his college days and took part in enough of the Civil Rights movement to instill in his sons a particular appreciation for race relations.  Stories of hotels refusing black patrons lodging, segregated lunch counters, and protests marred by police actions were no stranger to my young ears.  As an adult, I met many civil rights personalities who remember my dad and delight in the fact that a next-generation Martin is still in the thick of dealing with the scourge of racism in America.  Together with my dear friend Rodney Woods (founder of Diversity in Promotions), I’ve been working for years to deal with racism in the capital markets from disproportionate FDIC bank closures in traditionally black regions of the country to limited access to growth finance for robust minority owned enterprises, I’ve seen the continued injustice that mars our socioeconomic fabric.

Against that backdrop, about three years ago, I met with a number of people to whom I’d been introduced through the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC), Rev. Jesse Jackson’s RAINBOW Coalition, and my own business contacts to discuss the establishment of a new vision for Black enterprise in America.  While Dr. King, my dad, Rev. Jackson and thousands of others were committed to the laudable goal of opening the doors of access to persons of all races, I wondered why Dr. King’s dream didn’t seem to include industry-leading aspirations.  Since the late 60s and 70s, set-asides and quotas were seen as a concession to accommodate “disadvantage” but where were the voices suggesting that maybe, just maybe, black leaders could excel equal to and even surpassing their white counterparts?  In a world where the odds of making it to the NFL and NBA are held out as the longest odds in most diverse communities, where was the discussion of the even more improbable odds of making it to CEO, Board Chairman or Managing Partner in corporate or finance America?

Two years ago, I developed a modification to our very successful quantitative equity fund.  Rather than simply measuring the quality of innovation deployed by companies for market advantage and investing in those firms, my team at M·CAM went a step farther.  We decided to include another screen: the commitment on the part of companies to support diversity in their supply chains.  Using the NMSDC data, we modeled a fund that would invest in companies based on their innovation and their social responsibility with respect to diversity in supplier relationships.  And it turns out that using this approach, with no additional market risk, investors can out-perform the S&P500.   That’s right!  Companies committed to supplier diversity out-perform their racist or indifferent peers.  This, I thought, would be a perfect product for pensions, endowments, and institutions who want to expand their investment allocations into diversity values.

I set out to meet several of the top minority managers and principals with an eye towards offering this diversity-tilted equity product in the active management or exchange-traded funds (ETF) space.  Was I in for a surprise!  At a $9 billion dollar minority manager of pension money, I was told that a diversity product would compete with their existing managers (many of whom were underperforming the market).  At a $6 billion dollar minority manager of pension money I was told that the market “doesn’t care” about diversity and would prefer a yield-optimized S&P500 product.  One of the world’s premier minority asset managers scoffed at the notion of developing a diversity equity product saying that he wouldn’t want to associate his personal brand and reputation to something that was overtly minority focused!  And while New York, Virginia, Texas, California, Illinois and many other state teacher, police, fire, and employee pensions have mandates for allocating to diverse managers, not one actually has gone to the level of demanding that diversity actually trickle down to the Diversity Owned Companies that are actually making a difference in their communities! 

Now, last time I checked, most of the race news these days is about police shooting black men in the streets of America.  Tearful “How much longer?” has replaced the 1966 hopeful “We shall overcome.”  And the fact of the matter is that as long as economic injustice is not only tolerated but expected, there’s precious little we can expect to see change.

But, just on the eve of my frustration boiling like the pavement in Selma and Charlotte, I felt the cool waters of opportunity start to trickle.  Two very courageous men – both former NFL players – have decided to stand up and take up the challenge to lead America into a new day of race in America.  Two amazing men are studying for the Securities and Exchange Commission licenses so that they can step into a future where access is not the goal – rather it is excellence!  And like every great undertaking, the first tentative steps have just begun.  But one month from today, those first steps will be surrounded by dozens, hundreds or thousands more and before long, we’ll have justice rolling down!  And while I don’t know if I will enter the promised land where dreams of equivalent access go hand in hand with the daily news, I do know that I’ve been to the mountaintop, and from there, I’ve seen a much taller mountain worth climbing!  Thanks Charles.  Thanks Lee.  We’ve only just begun!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

EpiPens, Mylan’s Ethics Inversion, and the U.S. Government Smoking Gun


Mylan Pharmaceuticals deserves the attention it is getting.  Heather Bresch, Mylan’s CEO has every reason in the world to have the smug press photos.  After all, she’s used the mortality of millions who suffer from sudden and acute allergic reactions and heart problems to line her own pockets and those of her investors (while squirreling cash outside the U.S. for tax evasion-like purposes).  Together with Wendy Cameron (Cam Land LLC and Trustee at The Washington Hospital from 2009-2011), The Honorable (retired judge) Robert J. Cindrich (Cindrich Consulting), Robert J. Coury, JoEllen Lyons Dillon (the Chief Legal Officer for the 3-D printing ExOne Company), Neil Dimick (retired EVP at AmerisourceBergen), Melina Higgins (former partner of Goldman Sachs), Douglas J. Leech (Founding Principal of DLJ Advisors), Rajiv Malik, Dr. Joseph C. Maroon (Neurosurgeon at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), Mark W. Parrish (CEO of Trident USA Health Services), Rodney L. Piatt (Horizon Properties Group LLC), and Randall L. Vanderveen, PhD, R.Ph. (University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy) – Mylan’s esteemed board of real estate developers, bankers, lawyers, medical educators, and corporate executives – her leadership has steered the company into the maelstrom of public controversy around the insanely expensive EpiPen®.  Forbes reported that Bresch’s compensation rose 671% in 8 years.  For this reason, Forbes and others should be doing their stories on the people I listed above – the board of directors of Mylan who were willing to endorse a business strategy as ethical as arms dealers in Lord of War. 

Let’s cut to the chase.  Bresch is at best guilty of hyperbole and at worst lying when she was quoted on CNBC saying that, “No one’s more frustrated than me.  My frustration is, the list price is $608.”  In 2011, the same product sold for $164.  In 2007, it was available for $57.  Does she really want the public to believe that she’s frustrated that the Food & Drug Administration has been propping up her company’s monopoly on a technology and drug that’s been in the public domain since the 1950’s.  Does she love to know that her firm is pocketing $1 billion for a technology that was acquired from Merck in 2007?  Does the public know that the FDA and Congress have willfully succumbed to the pressure of corporate America by ignoring their own rights to the technology

Let’s take a little journey down memory lane so that Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and Mylan’s contemplable board can get on the same page!  When George Calkins and Stanley Sarnoff invented the EpiPen forbearer in 1973, they acknowledged that their ideas were improvements upon work commissioned for the U.S. and U.K. military emergency medicine needs in the 1960s!  That the U.S. Patent Office granted their patent in 1973 was, at the time, a bit of a stretch as it was more about a mechanical design improvement – not a real invention.  This technology, used in the military and in EMS kits around the world was the basis for their company.  As the U.S. Government was a principal buyer of anaphylaxis injector pens and funded a considerable amount of the technical improvements thereto, the U.S. government has march-in rights to use the technology at a reasonable commercial royalty rate it can set!  The U.S. Governments EpiPens don’t cost $608 per unit.  Meridian Medical Technologies – the Department of Defense’s supplier of the actual EpiPen (owned by Pfizer) – have the ability to deliver the exact same product at a price between $40 - $70.  And let’s face it, Congress knows about this.  The FDA knows this.  And the reason why Mylan gets away with this – just like they get away with incorporating out of the U.S. using the dubious inversion strategy for tax efficiency – is because powers that be love to provide liquidity to their benefactors!

The U.S. Patent Office and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have given Mylan license to rob the public based on a set of accommodations which are clearly illegal.  Pfizer’s Meridian Medical is cruising along under the radar with a very clear statement on their website stating that their technology is “Available only for use by United States military personnel.”  And Sarah Jessica Parker is keeping the Hollywood face on the whole racket unaware that what she’s encouraging parents and school districts to do is really to enrich a dubious corporation while preying on real public fear. 

Cut the crap.  This is another example of media hype around a faux well-spring of public activism around price gouging.  But let’s get real.  If we don’t want our kids to die from a bee-sting or a peanut, we should demand accountability where it’s really due – the Patent Office that granted an illegal monopoly, the FDA which props up the illusion, and a board of directors at Mylan who don’t take the time to inform themselves of their own company’s misdeeds. 


Monday, August 8, 2016

Out of Time


When the DeLorean vanishes into tire tracks of flames in the 1985 classic Back to the Future, the California license plate left spinning on the pavement is emblazoned with “OUTATIME”.  Having accelerated to 39.3395 meters per second (88 mph) the entire car was able to exploit the 0.10717 second wormhole opened by the lightning strike to blast into the future without becoming the victim of a relativity Cuisinart.  Why time travel involves extreme cryodynamics (the car reconstitutes covered with ice) is something I’ll save for another blog as dynamic temporal translocation could be more logically considered an isothermal reality devoid of friction or other exothermic physics.  On this 8th of August (88), I’d like to take the TIME to examine and refute the illusion of TIME.

Humans have reportedly observed movements of stars, the sun and the moon and have used these as indicators of auspiciousness.  Carvings in stone, slits that allow the passage of lights during equinox and solstice moments, orientations of rocks and buildings, geometric projections of precession of events, all suggest some awareness of “time” in the human narrative.  Comically, the concept of one second (which for those of you burning to know, is “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between to hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom”) and the notion of linear measure – the meter (also based on caesium 133) – are but two of Einstein’s legacies which have given us the illusion of the linear progression of time

For several weeks, I’ve encountered innumerable conversations, interactions, and high order social frictions triggering nearly incapacitating pain derived entirely from the illusion of time.  Dreams of a future, legacies of a past, the vindication of hours of training for the moment of Olympic glory, the futility of living based on aging, nostalgia, optimism, pessimism – all of these bandits robbing humanity of its authentic experience in favor of the elixir of “the other”.  Benedict De Spinoza’s Ethics courageously challenged the illusion of time when he stated that, “By substance I understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself, that is, that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing, from which it must be formed.”  He also states that, “In nature there is nothing contingent,” suggesting that the only thing that exists simply exists.  Centuries later, one of my favorite philosophers, Karl Popper expanded on these notions when examining the concept of human temporal and causal obsessions.  He argued that there is no possibility of apprehending all of the conditions which manifest the present and, as such, neither an explanation of the “past” nor a prognostication of a “future” is viable in any way.  “Individual human action or reaction can never be predicted with certainty, therefore neither can the future.” (The Poverty of Historicism). 

In the past several years, the economy (and society) has suffered the fatal effects of its implicit addiction to temporal illusions.  Debauched on the addiction to time as a linear, progressive construct we insist that ontological and algebraic ‘laws’ dictate explanation and prediction.  Manipulate supply and demand, manipulate interest rates or relative employment, manipulate wage and price ratios and magically you have a managed economy.  Only it doesn’t work out that way.  Resource providers impoverished by predatory extractors rise up in revolt shutting down the mine and the mill – at times killing the operators or the opposition faction.  Central banks pump fractional currency into economies only to watch asset values bloat while real monetary flows constrict.  Progressive Regressionists (those who explain causality through their own myopic observational reductionism) are convinced of model adequacy based on post hoc rationalization only to find that none of their models hold in the next moment.  “We value most what we measure best,” becomes an aspirational justification for experts to peddle worthless advice to public policymakers bent on placating the masses long enough to feed their egotistical ideals of incumbent power. 

As I celebrated an auspicious night at the Sydney Opera House listening to the Australian Youth Orchestra’s breathtaking rendition of Gustav Mahler’s Titan Symphony No. 1 in D I was absorbed with the contours of the genius of the third movement.  The complexity of rhythms weaves a tapestry punctuated with the staccato of the cuckoo birds call (played on clarinet) and to decipher the meter of the piece is to the rational mind as elusive as the most complex metaphysical construct is to the nascent philosopher.  In fact, what makes the piece so beautiful is not its meter but its movement.  And while physics will tell you that motion is a change in position with respect to time, this definition is constrained by artifice.  The acoustical feast that Mahler serves suspends time and was described by him in its modified score as the depiction of, “a Spring without end… the awakening of nature in the early morning.” 

A Spring without end.  Idigna.  The Mesopotamian ideal of an artesian water source that ever springs and flows ceaselessly.  Inanna’s dance of fertility which acknowledged the persistent, generative, infinite interaction between lovers, land, and life.  The effortless recognition that gratitude-filled moments of recognition of the mystery that is the persistence of life and love gain nothing from a “past” and offer nothing to a “future”.  In fact, what they do is heighten the emotional and observational intelligence in each moment to more perfectly perceive the ever present, always in flux, phase of NOW.  Has your life ever improved by justifying or rationalizing a “past”?  Have you ever lost a moment of Present based on your obsession with a yet unlived and unmanifest “future”?  If the answer to either of these is yes, stop.  Recognize that if you’re reading this, you’ve made it to here, now.  Be grateful.  Now think about all that you steward – your life, your love, your resources, your encouragement, your touch, your generosity – and find a person with whom to share it.  Don’t look for them.  Don’t wait.  Act NOW.  And in the acting of every now in its perfection, recognize that the only pain you feel is your choice to hold onto time.  Step out of time and step into unconstrained living.  You may be surprised that it doesn’t hurt and you just might heal.

BTW, I’ve included two articles from the 1987 Electronics Today which will demonstrate that the more we think that time is a linear function, the more we willfully ignore our own evidence to the contrary.  Think about China trade, the French DCNS contract to the Australian Navy, and the recent expansion of the F-35 program,  and ask yourself if anything has changed?