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Posts Tagged ‘business’

A Ponzi Scheme

August 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Everyone has heard of Ponzi schemes, right? If not, here’s the dictionary definition: a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors. It is named after Charles Ponzi who set up elaborate money-making ventures based on the system in the early 1900s.

Typically the first few people involved in the scheme promise to pay huge returns to the “investors” and when these are demanded they are paid from the initial investments made from other investors. It can never last, of course, but the original perpetrators usually try to get out before it all turns bad.

A related scheme is known as a “pyramid scheme”. In these the early “investors” are paid a fee by those they recruit and a lesser amount by those the recruiters recruit, etc. It works as long as new people are recruited, but the “deeper” into the scheme you are the less you will get and the more you will be paying those at the peak.

A unique feature of these schemes is that the organisation or individual running the scheme doesn’t actually need to do anything apart from run the scheme. They don’t need to sell anything or provide any service, for example. The scheme is entirely about shuffling money from one place to another (generally from the “suckers” who sign up late to those who were involved in the initial setup of the scheme).

As we all know, there are some pyramid schemes which also sell products (I’m sure we can all name some) but that is more or less just a cover for the dishonest underlying structure.

I was thinking about this recently and realised that there are many aspects of our modern economic system which make it look like just another Ponzi scheme. The economy only works well while there is “growth” or “increased efficiency or productivity”, yet these aims are totally unsustainable in the long term, and even during the short period that they are sustainable they are often undesirable.

In New Zealand a major election issue is immigration. New Zealand allegedly has a healthy and growing economy – and some stats support this view – yet the vast majority of people don’t feel as if they are doing well. How is this possible? Well basically it gets back to the fact that this alleged “growth” we see in our “rock star economy” is all fake. It is primarily due to increased population, provided by immigration, and no real progress has been made at all.

Unfortunately for the politicians supporting this scheme, it cannot last. Like most rock stars our economy will crash and burn when the excesses of its existence overtake any worthwhile contribution it is making. Eventually everyone will realise they are just being ripped off by a giant Ponzi scheme. But by that time the people in government who have created this situation will probably be gone.

Of course I should point out two things here. First, a pyramid scheme is probably a better description that a Ponzi for the economy, but Ponzi just sounds cooler so it better serves my rhetorical narrative; and second, the economy isn’t a pure Ponzi or pyramid scheme and almost everyone would admit that it works well in some ways.

Despite the obvious and numerous faults in capitalism, for example, it does produce the goods and services the First World needs to maintain its lavish lifestyle. As I have pointed out many times in the past, the system is grossly inefficient, poorly focussed, and generally corrupt, but I would never claim it doesn’t have some good points as well, especially for the original investors in the Ponzi or the people at the top of the pyramid (AKA the 1%).

But it will fail because indefinite growth is impossible and because the 99% who support the people at the top of the pyramid will eventually catch on to what’s really happening and rebel. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Like all Ponzi schemes it will fail and it will probably happen through catastrophic collapse rather than a careful restructuring.

When it happens it won’t be pretty, just like poor old Charles Ponzi’s slow and painful decline and death after all his wonderful and elaborate schemes failed.

Boss, Leader, or Team?

July 18, 2017 Leave a comment

I have a cartoon on my wall (amongst my collection of socially and politically relevant material) which depicts two management styles. There are two images of a team of three people trying to move a heavy weight and in one the “boss” is sitting on top of the weight (and therefore making it even heavier and harder to shift) at his desk, giving out orders. In the second the “leader” is at the front of the team, helping to shift the weight, and indicating the best direction to go.

The symbolism is obvious and I’m sure most people would know which category the vast majority of managers belong in. They are the type who not only perform no useful function but actually make getting the job done even harder for the people actually doing it.

I honestly believe that many organisations would be better off just to put their managers in a room where they can have meetings all day but never do anything in the real world. I’m not making a rhetorical point here, I really do believe we would be better to pay them to do nothing (assuming they have to exist at all, but disposing of them all would be too big a step for most organisations).

But my real point is this: is it possible to have a third model where all 4 team members share equally in both the work and the decision making? Could all the team members look at the challenge ahead and decide the best course of action instead of just relying on the opinion of the one who is designated leader?

Because, in the end, the decisions made by management really are just opinions being imposed on other people simply because of an artificial hierarchy which has been created (by managers, of course). They have no natural right to impose their views on others. And they have no real justification for those opinions, because business cases can be used to justify anything, and it seems in most cases that the decision is made first, based on personal preferences, then a case is prepared to justify it.

You might be thinking at this point that this argument is somewhat hypocritical, because it’s just my opinion that management opinions are unreliable and untrustworthy. But I do have some evidence supporting my view. The wisdom of crowds is a well established phenomenon in both social science and statistical theory. Basically, in many circumstances, a large number of opinions, when properly aggregated, lead to far more accurate appraisals of the real world than an individual’s assessment.

So there is the simple fact that multiple opinions are usually better than just one. But it goes beyond that, because the leaders often have a very distorted view of what their decisions are trying to achieve. A positive spin on it would be to say that they see “the big picture” but it would be equally valid to say they see a picture devoid of any connection with reality.

And if none of the above appeals there is one last point I would make in support of my “team leadership” idea. That is the decisions are made by those they affect. In a top-down model the decisions are made by a leader, but the negative consequences are dealt with by those who must carry out the new idea. At least if a team finds themselves trying to implement a bad idea they know it is their own and can fix it.

I’m not necessarily suggesting this model (which I will call the “team” model as opposed to the “boss” and “leader” models in the cartoon) is the best solution, but I am wondering if it could work and why it isn’t considered as an option in more organisations (it has been attempted in some situations with mixed results).

The real danger with these new and radical ideas is that, even if the current system seems fairly bad, it still might be the best we can hope for given the vagaries of human nature and the realities of actual social and political interactions. Maybe the leader model is the best we can hope for. Or maybe – an even more depressing thought – the boss model, no matter how bad it seems on the surface, is best. I certainly hope not!

Criticise the Idea

June 22, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about some of my recent blog posts and I have come to realise that they could be interpreted as me having a rather simplistic view of some of the topics I have discussed, especially in relation to beliefs I disapprove of, like capitalism and Islam.

There are two major nuances regarding my thoughts on these topics: first, nothing is ever entirely bad, or entirely good; and second, even if I think the belief is wrong that doesn’t mean I condemn all of the people who practice that belief.

So the anti-capitalism rant in my previous post wasn’t meant to suggest that all business owners or other people who participate in the capitalist system (which is all of us to some extent) are bad. What I meant is that capitalism has a lot of negative consequences, along with some good ones, and that I believe that, on balance, we could do a lot better.

There are a lot of greedy, self-centered, sociopaths who are deeply involved in capitalism, but there are many reasonable, hard-working, moral people too. The problem is that the core tenets of capitalism include pursuit of maximum profit, winning against competition, and minimising non-monetary elements of doing business, and by systematising and normalising what I (and a lot of other people) see as negative attributes it encourages anyone who has an existing propensity towards them.

So if a person has a natural tendency towards what otherwise might be thought of as anti-social behaviours, like greed, then that will be rewarded by participating in a capitalist system. That person will do well in such a system where a more generous, sharing person might fail.

There are some possible good outcomes of being greedy too. It might drive a person towards creating a bigger, more efficient company which might employ a lot of people or produce products more effectively, for example.

As I said, it’s about balance and I think that on balance we could do better than capitalism. But that’s not to denigrate the efforts of the minority of participants who used it for positive ends. There are a few obvious, high-profile examples, such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, but I’m sure there are many others we never hear about, as well.

And exactly the same argument applies to Islam. Many Muslims are great people but I believe that the underlying philosophy of Islam (and most other religions) leads to many negative consequences.

Religions tend to encourage people to believe their core dogmas and not look for anything better. It makes them think they already know everything worth knowing. Humanity has progressed through exactly the opposite attitude to this.

And they tend to make their followers feel like an “in-group” and everyone else is in some way inferior because they don’t share the special knowledge pertaining to that religion’s beliefs. Surely, we don’t need any more reasons to separate people into competing cliques than what we already have.

And they discourage free thought. Religions tend to tell people the facts are all recorded in a holy book or in the beliefs of religious leaders. If someone believes that why would they ever question potentially dangerous or incorrect beliefs? There’s a very good reason the metaphor of sheep is often used to describe religious followers.

So again there are plenty of religious people who haven’t fallen into any of the traps I described above, but undoubtedly religions make that far more likely, simply because of their underlying nature.

In summary, nothing is all bad or all good, but that doesn’t mean that criticising things that are bad on balance can’t be justified. And criticism of an idea does not automatically equate to criticism of people who hold that idea, but if the person is implicated in by an idea they hold that is just an unfortunate side effect. I always try (but don’t always succeed) to criticise the idea, not the person.

Next

April 21, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently finished reading (actually listening to the audiobook version of) the Michael Crichton novel, Next, which I found both compelling and interesting, and hard to “put down”.

I know that his work gets a certain amount of criticism because of his failure to follow what many deem to be the standard mechanisms writers should use to produce the best results (clear leading characters, strong single plot lines, full and complex character development) but I find his books quite engrossing because of the complex plots and interesting treatment of ideas and controversies.

Next was the last book Crichton wrote before his death from cancer in 2008 at age 66. I have read or listened to most of his other books and liked them for the same reasons I liked this one: he includes a lot of credible scientific and technical details; he often has several plots and sub-plots running simultaneously and interacting in complex ways; and he always has a greater philosophical, political, or scientific point to make.

I should emphasise that this is fiction based on science. In the introduction to the book the author says “this novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren’t.” and in a New York Times Book Review they described the book as “a barrage of truths, half-truths and untruths”.

Maybe the best example of this is in another of his novels, Jurassic Park (the one the movies were based on) where the dinosaur DNA is sourced from amber. This is a genuine technique but not one which is likely to allow recovery of material more than 65 million years old.

But the real point of Jurassic Park is not about *how* dinosaurs might be brought back to life but *if* they should. In the book the dinosaurs get out of control – as predicted by the expert in chaos theory (also a real thing and basically well portrayed) – despite the best efforts of the people in charge.

And this is a common theme in other Crichton books. They usually involve failures to allow for all possible problems, greed and unrealistic optimism leading to bad decisions, and incompetent and corrupt people causing systems to break down.

I found it interesting, as the book proceded, to try to guess which parts were true and, if they were based on fact, how much fact. So all of the following are parts of the book which sound odd but are essentially true: cells taken in medical procedures are used for profit by universities without the donors’ consent; body parts are harvested by morgues and funeral directors and sold; transgenic species, including monkeys, have already been created; modern human blonde genes probably originated in Neanderthals; and an artist has used his own fat (obtained through liposuction) to make a meatball served at a dinner party!

Actually, the only “fact” I checked which I couldn’t verify was the existence of a group mentioned in the book called the “society for libertarian biology” which doesn’t appear to exist. No doubt there are many other fictional elements too, that was just the only one I checked.

So here are some of the themes/ideas presented in the book which I agreed with, or at least found interesting…

We need to stop patenting genes. This is totally absurd from a logical perspective, it is intolerable from any reasonable moral viewpoint, and it doesn’t even make much sense from a business or economic angle, except for the company who has the patent for something they have no right to. There are many examples already of gene patents causing great harm to both individuals and society. The processes of science and discovery in general have been warped by business.

We need better rules for tissue storage and we need to enforce them. Again there are many examples of where companies have acted in very morally doubtful ways to profit from cells they “own”. The pursuit of profit has warped basic moral standards.

The real outcomes of research and development must be made public. Research and trials of new drugs and treatments sometimes leads to bad outcomes for the subjects, including death, and this should not be hidden behind commercial sensitivity and trade secrets. In fact (this is just my opinion), commercial sensitivity should always be rejected: all information relating to large organisations (companies, universities, etc) should be public. The pursuit of profit has destroyed basic fairness.

Studies of commercial products need to be transparent and performed by neutral scientists. Under the current system 90% of drug trials give positive results for the person funding the trial. It seems a clear case of where science has been corrupted by business.

We should avoid bans on research. All research is useful although some caution needs to be used in potentially dangerous or morally ambiguous situations. Again we need a scientific approach rather than a commercial one

Universities have become too commercial and their original function as unbiased commentators on society and originators of pure knowledge have largely gone. In public universities the taxpayers pay, the universities profit by selling their new discoveries to corporations who sell them back (with extreme profits) back to the taxpayers who paid for them to start with. Again, science has been corrupted by commerce

Look at the last sentence of each of those points and it is pretty obvious where the problem lies. The problem is the same one responsible for most of our modern problems: uncontrolled capitalism. It’s a point I have made many times and it is interesting that the same point is apparent in Crichton’s work, even though he is often considered a libertarian.

Finally, I liked this book. it was thoughtful but also fast paced, serious but also humorous in parts, based on fact but those were portrayed through fiction. The ultimate recommendation: I started another Crichton novel as soon as I finished this one!

Bigger is Better… Not

January 23, 2017 Leave a comment

I deal with several larger companies for IT services and products. I buy products from them, I buy services from them, and I get support from them when things go wrong. I also deal with smaller companies, especially for specialised software and other products, and sometime I need support from them as well. I think, after many years, I have noticed some general patterns in the way these larger and smaller companies operate.

Basically, it’s simple: bigger is better. No, I’m joking: it’s the opposite!

Obviously I am just talking about personal experience and anecdotes here, but this is a blog, not a scientific paper, so I’m going to proceed with that understanding.

First, what is it I have noticed?

Well, big companies are sometimes the only choice, whether you like them or not, because there are some products which can only realistically be produced by big corporations, if we operate under our current economic model. For example, if I want to work with computers I really have to buy one from a large corporation. And if I want to work in the Apple world my choices are down to one!

The products these companies produce aren’t necessarily bad, although I believe some of them are, but there is a huge amount of room for improvement. For example, how can Microsoft keep producing such a junk product with successive versions of Office for Mac? It’s hard to imagine how a company with so many resources available can continue to produce such slow, unreliable, ugly rubbish!

Even the good products have serious defects. For example, I really like Apple’s hardware (including the Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch, all of which I use every day) but, again considering the resources (and massive amounts of cash) they have available I think they could do so much better.

And that is not so much with the design of the hardware, but the pricing, bundling, compatibility, and other issues. For example, with the new MacBook Pros, why are there no USBC to USBA adapters included, and why aren’t they the same price or cheaper than the previous models?

Another example of these issues peripheral to the main product is licensing. Why is Adobe’s licensing so complicated? Why can’t I just buy a product from them and use it? I can’t, so now Adobe has joined Microsoft as a company whose products I just don’t use any more.

And finally there is the big one: service. The most abysmal, frustrating, pointless service always comes from the big companies. Recently I waited on hold for almost 2 hours with the helpdesk for New Zealand’s biggest telecom company, Spark. And the phone still wasn’t answered so I just gave up. I did manage to communicate with their on-line chat service but that was useless and I got no useful answers.

The worst helpdesk service I have ever experienced was probably with HP. I basically told them what was wrong but they insisted I go through a “check-list” of possible causes before they would try anything else. After an hour of this I agreed to try the things they suggested and call back. After doing this and re-contacting the helpdesk they wanted to go through the list again before they would even listen to the issue. That’s what happens when the helpdesk staff just follow a list of instructions and have no real idea what they’re doing.

On the other hand, small companies I have dealt with almost always provide great service. It’s unusual to even have an issue to resolve, but when it does happen (including licensing issues I had with one product) the problem is fixed almost instantly.

Why? Why do small companies perform so much better than big? Well, I think there are two reasons…

First, big companies (and other organisations) always suffer from communicaitons problems because there are always too many layers between the customer and the people who do the real work. These layers are sometimes bureaucratic – like useless customer service managers – and sometimes structural – like helpdesks run by unskilled (cheap) staff.

I’m not saying every helpdesk is bad, I’m just saying that the good ones are the exception rather than the rule. And I’m not saying every manager is useless… actually I am. In fact, they are worse than useless.

Second, the policies set by big companies come from the wrong people. They come from professional managers (and you already know what I think of them) who have no concept of what is really required and what the customer wants. Instead of reality they rely on instructions from more senior managers, accountants who want to reduce costs, lawyers who just want to avoid legal issues, and that primary source of bad policy: best practice.

If the policies (and those should only be used as guidelines, not absolute rules) in big companies were made by the same people who produce the products and provide the services, and if it was possible for customers to discuss issues with the people who design and produce products and provide services, things would be so much better. But, of course, the bureaucrats aren’t going to give up their influence any time soon.

In summary, I don’t think the problem is Apple, or Microsoft, or Adobe, it’s big business in general. So I try whenever possible to use smaller companies, because I like to support the underdog, because that’s where the real innovation happens, and because that’s often where you get the best deal.

McLaren Spin Out

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment

One of my main areas of interest is cars. Although unfortunately my current (and most likely, future) financial position means I can’t afford a supercar, I do drive a reasonably fast cheap car (a twin turbo Subaru) and keep up with the latest car news and trends.

Maybe the supercar manufacturer I admire most is McLaren. That’s because they produce brilliant cars, including what is arguably the greatest car ever, the F1 (produced in the 1990s). I admire the F1 so much that I wrote a blog post specifically about it, titled “Favourite Things 4” and posted on 2013-02-17.

Recently there was a convoy of McLaren cars touring New Zealand, which included an F1 which had an estimated value of $20 million! Unfortunately the cars didn’t reach my home town so I didn’t get to see them, and the F1 was actually involved in a fairly serious crash just a couple of days ago.

The organisers of the tour claim the driver wasn’t exceeding the speed limit, but skid marks 80 meters long were found near the crash site. Now, I haven’t tried this, but my car (which as I said has good performance but obviously nowhere near that of the F1) can stop from the speed limit in less than 40 meters. So it seems to be that the driver of a car capable of 4 times our speed limit (yes, that is 400 kph or 240 mph) might have been going just a tiny bit faster than 100. And who could blame him? I know I certainly would be!

But the really intersting aspect of this event, and the thing which encouraged me to write a blog post, is the way McLaren handled the accident. They were on the scene fairly quickly offering large sums for photos, and covering the car with a cover, the name badges with tape, and then removing it as quickly as possible. I thought the protection of their corporate image was bit over the top.

And it’s not the first time. McLaren make another car called the P1 (yes, I know their names aren’t so inspirational) which is one of the “holy trinity” of modern, hybrid supercars (the other two being the Porsche 918 and the Ferrari LaFerrari). Car enthusiasts have wanted a comparison of these cars for years but McLaren has been uncooperative.

To be fair, so has Ferrari, threatening owners with having their cars confiscated if they allowed them to be used in a comparison race. I know, could you make this stuff up? Only Porsche seem to be fairly relaxed about having their cars used however the owners wanted.

One common measure of performance, car enthusiasts often use, is Nurburgring lap times. McLaren did this test but never released the result. The Porsche 918 has the best recorded time for a standard road car (there are better times but they are for open-wheel, quite specialised cars). Again, McLaren seems to be playing corporate games.

The first episode of “The Grand Tour”, the new program featuring the hosts of the old Top Gear, managed to test all 3 cars and found the Porsche was the fastest and the McLaren the slowest. Of course, this was a rather informal test on a specific track with a specific driver, so we shouldn’t read too much into it. But it is an indicator that the P1 isn’t quite as good in real life as it should be. I do have to say that even though the Porsche and Ferrari were faster, the P1 was still incredibly fast, and not far behind the other two.

Now to move on to my more general point. There are obvious parallels between Apple and McLaren. In fact, recently there were talks between the two and a rumour that Apple wanted to buy or invest in McLaren in some way. At the very least they both represent great engineering and premium pricing. And while they both represent great products they also both suffer from questionable corporate ethics.

So people ask me as an Apple fanboy (I use Apple computer products almost exclusively) and as a fan of McLaren cars, what I think of them as corporates. Well, like almost every corporation (or maybe that “almost” isn’t necessary): they suck!

I have a theory (which is based around my personal political biases rather than any real empirical evidence) that there are two types of big business: successful ones, and moral ones. For anyone who works in IT you just have to choose which immoral corporation you will tolerate. And for any car fan you have to choose which products you like while trying to ignore the corporate malfeasance shown by the manufacturer.

There is no doubt that large corporations do achieve some excellent results, and that some projects do need extensive teams that only larger organisations can provide, but I can’t help but think that things would be even better if the power of the corporates was significantly curtailed. I think things have gone a bit too far towards greater dominance by corporations.

We don’t really need that. We don’t need dodgy tax deals, we don’t need dominant companies forcing their inferior technology on us, and we definitely don’t need any more corporate spin!

Behavioral Economics

May 18, 2016 Leave a comment

I don’t like labels, but if I was going to label my own preferences on understanding the world I might use something like rationalist, atheist, or empiricist. Especially empiricist, because I don’t think we can take any idea seriously until it is tested in the real world.

That is one of the reasons that I don’t like religion. Religions have a revealed knowledge which is assumed to be true but is never tested. And even if some real-world facts do happen to encroach on the accepted dogma they can be conveniently disposed of with faith.

And I used to have the same criticism of a lot of social sciences, especially economics. It seemed to me that economics is based on interesting theoretical ideas that have little connection with the real world. The real problem was that no one even tried to establish the ideas’ truth, so while they might have been true, there was no real way of knowing.

But after recently reading some books on the subject of behavioral economics I now hold the subject of economics in somewhat higher regard because I realise at least parts of it make an attempt to establish real world facts through empirical testing and experiments.

Most recently I read Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, which describes a series of experiments with real people in situations which reveal the genuine way people react rather than the way conventional economics says they should react. Here’s a hint: they are completely different.

So realising that there are some branches of economics which try to take account of the way real people act was good but realising that most conventional economic and political practice is based on the old economics – the one based on interesting theoretical ideas which might or might not describe the real world situation – is bad.

The book “Predictably Irrational” has a number of chapters describing experiments involving different aspects of economics but I want to concentrate on one in particular in this blog post. The one I have chosen this time is people’s moral behaviour, especially in relation to cheating. So here’s a few of the more interesting points…

The experimenters asked their subjects to perform a skill task and be paid for the number of questions they got right. One group showed their results to the person in charge and were paid based on their performance. Another group scored the test themselves and asked for the appropriate payment based on that. Note that only the second group had an easy opportunity to cheat by lying about their real score.

Of course the second group scored better than the first (and were paid more) and since the participants were chosen at random the most likely explanation wasn’t that they were better at the task but that they cheated! Interestingly, they didn’t cheat fully and ask for payment for a perfect score, they just added about 50% onto their real score.

So people engage in moderate amounts of cheating when they get the opportunity. How could this problem be resolved? In another experiment the subjects were asked to recall the Ten Commandments before doing the test. They didn’t need to actually know them, just think about the fact that they exist. And guess what, in this situation the second group didn’t cheat at all. There wasn’t even a small increase in the second group’s scores over the first.

So is this a good reason to bring back religion? Well no, not really, because after being questioned it turned out that a lot of the subjects couldn’t even list the Commandments. And a further experiment asking participants to accept the “MIT Honour Code” before doing the experiment also gave a zero cheating result – even though MIT doesn’t actually have an honour code!

So it seems that making people think about “doing the right thing” prior to making a moral decision is enough to prevent cheating.

What does this have to do with economics and politics? Well there is a possibility that the poor standards of morality seen in professions today is a result of the professionals moving to a market model rather than a social one. In market models maximising profit is the primary objective and fair play and moral standards tend to be forgotten.

In the US during the 1960s many professions, such as medicine, law, and accounting, were largely deregulated and opened to market forces. Yes, this is the same market force model espoused by the “old economics” based on theory (or maybe ideology or dogma would be better words) rather than reality.

Since that change doctors order diagnostic tests which they just happen to have the equipment for, just to make extra cash; they prescribe drugs made by companies who give them gifts instead of what is best for the patient; and they perform unnecessary procedures for the money. In other words, their ethical standards have dropped significantly.

Of course, I’m not saying that all doctors cheat, just like not every participant in the experiments cheated, but the rate of cheating has increased greatly and surveys of professional organisations show that the members know that things are bad. In one survey half of the lawyers questioned said they wouldn’t follow that profession if they had to make the choice again.

And these experiments were just a small part of the case against conventional economics. The main point of the book was – as the name suggests – that people don’t act rationally and when they do act irrationally it is in predictable ways. The conventional assumption that people will act rationally in their own best economic interests is just not true.

But a discussion of those other experiments will need to wait for another blog post. This post just shows that if we want people to be more moral they should think about the Ten Commandments more, or the MIT Honour Code, or the Jedi Code, or whatever else they prefer, it makes no difference!