Superbia

Most people believe we are two ‘enemy brothers’, because in many ways our history and profile is similar, and yet many things could oppose us, yet today I have lunch with X (he does want to be exposed). Both of us are known for our technology expertise, yet not much of the conversation is about technology, except a chat on femtocells. Interestingly while X would have every reason to believe in femtocells and I would have every reason to not believe in them, I tend to believe in this technology while he believes it will not fly technically.
We mostly discuss on our future. After selling his company, working for a few years for a bigger group, he quit and now wants to invest in new ventures in the most discrete way possible. I also sold my company and now work for a big group, I also invest in new ventures, but I tell him about my intention to create a ‘thinktank of thinktanks’ on the Internet.
I like many things in X : he is an exceptional engineer, he has strong opinions -usually very informed- on many topics, and he is passionate about them. My intention to get involved, albeit indirectly, in politics, triggers a heated discussion: this is an initiative fundamentally based on pride (Superbia), one of the 7 deadly sins. With pride and exposure come many risks, why would I take those risks with nothing substantial to gain, except pride? By contrast X believes that pursuing ones’ objectives underground is ‘the best business plan’.
As an example X mentions a statement I had made in a conference years ago, in front of some of France Telecom R&D staff, where I had mentioned that the public subsidies to fund telecom standards activities (e.g. ETSI), were questionable if made with no consideration for intellectual property, as we were offering specifications to asian manufacturers, and this would jeopardize the French telecom industry. X took this statement as useless provoking, putting at risk my business (which was at risk already given internal politics in France Telecom) by hurting sensitivities, without any perspective of gain. I was indeed surprised to see that he had been exposed to this statement, even more to hear that he remembered it several years after it was made. X had a perception that this statement had been widely echoed in the telecom village, and that in general my exposure was much beyond what would have been strictly useful: this was pride.
Was the statement useless ? At the time I strongly felt that the belief in ‘standards are good’ was a bit naïve when considering the national economy. Long term and for the global optimum, there is no question that standards are good. But I believe this is not a reason to ‘simply’ invest public money in standards. Standards are never neutral. I think the optimal way of contributing to standards with public money is to build them with local enterpreneurs, then push them for publication when a local industry is ready to leverage them commercially. The naïve maturing of standards that I saw, where France Telecom was excluding any local business and actually collaborating with foreign groups, and publishing everything on the way, was not the optimum for our industry and favoured groups better supported by they governements, such as those from China (e.g. Huawei).
Stating it was negative for my company, yes, but still I felt the urge to voice my concerns as a citizen. Or is it the positive way of presenting it ? Was it just a provokative statement and indulging in self-exposure ?
I guess it is hard to decide what was my true motivation. I think I probably wasn’t totally wrong when raising the issue, as one of the masterminds behind France Telecom standardization efforts, Mr C., worked as a consultant for Huawei immediately after retiring from FT. I truly wanted to disrupt the comfort of such people who I felt were hurting our industry, but perhaps I also enjoyed the exposure ?
X believes that you can advance your agenda more efficiently by working behind the scenes. Even if he was right, is it really without pride ? X mentions several names who are unknown from the general public, yet industry tycoons with influence over large segments of the industry. The same people often are proheminent members of the french freemasonry, enjoying occult power and celebrity in closed circles… without pride really ?

Being true to myself, I know that deep down my choice is for action through exposure and I don’t really have any doubt on it. But I’ll remember the danger of indulging in the pleasure of self-exposure without a clear purpose. Exposure is a double edged sword.

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