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Family dynasties

The issue of political dynasties has been a long-standing debate in the Philippine political scene. One of those rare occasions when a Senate hearing was actually educational was the one recently held on this topic by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments chaired by Senator Pangilinan.

Although the discussion by a group of academicians were thorough and enlightening, there was a serious attempt by the chair and the academicians to make the language understandable by the general public. The main contention was that poverty breeds political dynasties; and political dynasties cause poverty.

There was also a distinction made between “fat political dynasties” and “ thin political dynasties.” Fat political dynasties are situations where several members of a family are in government positions at the same time. Thin political dynasties are those where a single member of the family may be in a political position and is replaced by another member of the family. The academicians felt that thin dynasties are acceptable while fat political dynasties should be banned. There was a general consensus that the banning of fat political dynasties in the Constitution should be included before there is any decision on federalism.

I completely agree that fat political dynasties enhance and encourage poverty. However, I am not so sure that poverty alone is the root cause of political dynasties. Perhaps, academicians should also look into other causes, like the possibility that family dynasties is embedded in our culture.

I am basing this possibility on the fact that family dynasties dominate not only the political sector, but also other sectors of Philippine society like business, media, education and even in some cases religion.

It is no secret that the biggest conglomerates in the country are family owned businesses. In fairness, some of them are well managed and very professional. The Ayala group of companies has survived for several generations because it is very well managed. Many of these family business dynasties have also proven to be good corporate citizens; but, they remain as family businesses.

Traditional media has been very critical of political dynasties. However, most of the major media conglomerates are also family owned businesses. In the field of education, aside from schools run by religious orders, almost every educational institution is now owned by a family business. The major family business dynasties are going into education on a big scale. Many non-Catholic religious organizations are also controlled by a family dynasty. The largest one is the “Iglesia ni Cristo” and the Manalo family.

This dominance of family dynasties in different sectors of the economy and society is quite prevalent in other Asian countries. Among them are the Nehru-Gandhi family in India, the Abe family in Japan, the Parks of South Korea, Lee family in Singapore. The present rulers of China headed by Xi Jinping are predominantly descendants of the former Communist Party leaders.

In almost all these countries – South Korea, India, China, Thailand and Hong Kong – the business sector is also dominated by family dynasties. If family dynasties dominate only the political sector, then it might be logical to assume that political dynasties are caused only by poverty. But, perhaps academicians should look at the possibility that there are cultural factors that may also be part of the cause. In Western countries, the individual is the basic unit of society. In Asian culture, the basic unit of the family is the family.

I completely agree that fat political dynasties should be banned in the Constitution. The question now is whether it is possible to ban political dynasties in politics while allowing family dynasties to continue dominating other sectors of the economy and society.

AI: The new business priority

Last week I wrote a column “Artificial Intelligence is coming” and it elicited quite a number of responses. My thesis was that studies are showing that business firms are now seriously moving into the use of artificial intelligence. Amazon, last year, reported it already had 45,000 robots.

A recent article by Cade Metz reported that in technology companies, like Google and Facebook A.I. researches were clearly top priorities. The evidence was the location of AI research offices right next to the top officials of the company. Metz writes: ”At Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, the chief executive, Sundar Pichai, now shares a floor with Google Brain, a research lab dedicated to artificial intelligence. …When Facebook created its own artificial intelligence lab at its offices about seven miles away, it temporarily gave AI researchers desks next to the fish bowl of a conference room where its chief executive and founder, Mark Zuckerberg holds his meetings…Even Overstock. Com, the online retailer based in the Salt Lake City area, now runs a mini research operation called OLabs. It sits directly outside the office of the company’s chief executive, Patrick Byrne.”

John Kotter, professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School, who has written several books on business leadership said: “The world is moving faster and faster. It is being driven by technology and innovation. And a lot of these businesses are concluding that the speed of technological innovation should be the heart of everything.”

There was a time when virtual reality was the buzz word in Silicon Valley. That time is past. Today, the attention is focused on artificial intelligence.

Creative writing classes for kids/teens and adults

Young Writers’ Hangout on February 24, March 3 & 17, April 7, 14, 21 & 28 (1:30pm-3pm; independent sessions); Fiction Writing for Adults with Sarge Lacuesta on March 10 (1:30pm-4:30pm) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration contact 0945-2273216 or writethingsph@gmail.com.

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