Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Julian Assange interviewed in Forbes (hat-tip Powers again)

What do you think WikiLeaks mean for business? How do businesses need to adjust to a world where WikiLeaks exists?

WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business, and all CEOs should be encouraged by this. I think about the case in China where milk powder companies started cutting the protein in milk powder with plastics. That happened at a number of separate manufacturers.

Let’s say you want to run a good company. It’s nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they’re not screwing other people over.

Then one company starts cutting their milk powder with melamine, and becomes more profitable. You can follow suit, or slowly go bankrupt and the one that’s cutting its milk powder will take you over. That’s the worst of all possible outcomes.

The other possibility is that the first one to cut its milk powder is exposed. Then you don’t have to cut your milk powder. There’s a threat of regulation that produces self-regulation.

It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses. That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies.

No one wants to have their own things leaked. It pains us when we have internal leaks. But across any given industry, it is both good for the whole industry to have those leaks and it’s especially good for the good players.

1 comment:

John Powers said...

Wanted to put out a couple more links. Ethan Zuckerman tackles the problem with Amazon stopping hosting WikiLeaks and the broader implications for free speech.

Zuckerman also provides some fascinating information about the DNS attacks which go to topic of super-empowered individuals.

That latter subject is taken up in a great article by Felix Stalder Contain This! Leaks, Whistle-Blowers and the Networked News Ecology.

Stalder's piece points out with the consolidation of media journalists are fed a diet of "official" leaks and insider information. He point to journalist enbedded in the war. So the hope is that so called "New Media" might fill the gap made by lazy journalism.

But he makes the point that old media isn't gone so the relationship between the new and old is worth examining as a "networked ecology."

Stalder also reflects about how modern work leads to WikiLeaks.

The meaning the words ethics and morality are hard to pin down. but perhaps a distinction can be made that morality has to do with how we treat one another-who we are as human beings--and ethics about how we ought to live.

Assange talks about ethics. But in the background to that is the moral sphere. Stalder doesn't use the word but does address a structural transformation with ramifications to morality brought on in part by new information technologies.