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Since 2009, Cadence's CEO and leader has been Lip-Bu Tan. I haven’t had the opportunity sit down and talk with him since joining Cadence in January, so I was eager to attend a Cadence Round Table with Lip-Bu early last June, as well as attending Lip-Bu’s 1:1 conversation with Ed Sperling at DAC. I think I’m just starting to scratch the surface of getting to know Lip-Bu and what his priorities are when leading Cadence.
I recently discovered the works of Vivek Wadhwa; he has been highlighting the importance of making socially responsible choices in technology’s march towards the future. In one of Vivek’s articles, he says:
It is the choices we all make which will determine the outcome. Technology will surely create upheaval and destroy industries and jobs. It will change our lives for better and for worse simultaneously. But we can reach “Star Trek” [as opposed to “Mad Max”] if we can share the prosperity we are creating and soften its negative impacts; ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks, and gain greater autonomy rather than becoming dependent on technology.
Lip-Bu Tan seems to have his priorities to move our world towards that kind of ideal. If I had to pick one word to describe him, it would be “idealist”—and I mean that in the best way possible. Only with idealism can one lead to a positive future.
I admire those who can objectively evaluate current trends and extrapolate how best to proceed in a marketplace or economic landscape. Because we in technology are standing on the shoulders of so many giants standing on the shoulders of giants (and it’s turtles all the way down1), it takes a complex and intelligent mind to distill all the information available in this Age of Information—and an even more discerning mind to determine those trends that will become unstoppable—and then, only then! point an organization into the direction of The Future.
I find myself frequently pondering whether it’s responsible to do The Thing (whatever it is), just because we can. Just because we can make autonomous cars, should we? Have we considered all that will necessarily change in society to make this technology successful? Just because we can make designer babies, or wear contact lenses that record our experiences, or leave Earth to make an off-world haven for the rich, or augment our personal memory capacity, or whatever—should we? Here at Cadence, we make the tools that allow others to do The Thing, but that doesn’t make Cadence immune from these considerations.
Humanity can’t rely on legal regulations to control all the baby steps that lead to the future. These advances move too quickly for any government, no matter how benevolent, to keep up. Advances in one field invariably lead to innovations in another field, and we can’t rely on Big Brother (or Big Government or Big Industry or Big Whatever-the-most-powerful-organization-is-you-can-think-of) to ensure that the decisions about how to use these innovations will the most beneficial to the world.
We rely on individuals to make a pitch for their own innovation, and, at least in this capitalist system, we must have faith that the successful companies are also making the most “moral” choices. We have to trust that it will never get to the point of, say, trashing the Earth because we have a utopia to look forward to, or spending all of our capital and brain power on developing autonomous cars while not paying attention to the fallacy of fossil fuels, or making robots who can make decisions as well as a human that renders humanity obsolete. That’s all we have: the hope and faith that the future will be more Star Trek than Mad Max. (It’s no mistake that the name of the ship is the Enterprise).
…which doesn’t really leave us much to go on, when looking at The Future.
There are two definitions of the word “faith”. The first is a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. The second is a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. The second definition is mostly irrelevant to the discussion. The first, though—a complete trust in someone or something—this is what I’m talking about.
We must trust our leaders. We must have faith that the “correct” (however you define it) decisions are made. We must have faith that our leaders will take us in a direction that is compelling, makes sense, and is ultimately the best for not only customers, our shareholders, and ourselves, but also for humanity. We must have faith that all the leaders in a given market will agree that maybe there are too many risks to developing The Thing because of its implications, and all will abandon that direction.
And here’s the hard part: we must have faith in every leader in a particular landscape. If Company A decides not to pursue The Thing and Company B pursues it just because they can or because they see a profit in it or they think that Company A is too cautious— the negative societal outcome may be the same, no matter how moral and righteous Company A may be.
On the flip side, if followers lose faith in their leader, a period of insecurity and doubt most certainly follows. This applies to any system that involves people: politics, business, religion, sports, or even the local Neighborhood Watch. Inspiring faith is a huge part of convincing anyone to follow you. Your followers have to want to go to bat for you. Your followers must trust that your decisions are the right ones. Inspire faith and trust in your leadership, and you have followers who rely on you to make the moral and righteous decisions.
And now Meera is talking about morality? Righteousness? This is very strange content for a technology blog.
Am I deluding myself that I have faith that the decisions we all make every day are made with humanity in mind? Is it naïve of me to believe that if a decision is made that harms humanity, that the decision will be un-made or mitigated? Am I too much of an idealist, too?
I’ll bring it back to where I began. I believe Lip-Bu Tan to be an idealistic leader, with the right priorities of not only doing what is right by way of Cadence and its customers, its shareholders, and its employees—he is also committed to social and economic equality, both personally and with his leadership in the company. He brings to the table the best of the values he grew up with, combined what he learned about teamwork and sports in college, topping off his education with learning about personal responsibility and the benefits of hard work and friendship when he was a young man. We can’t go wrong with that kind of background, and it seems to me that Cadence has placed its trust—and faith—in a good man and idealistic leader.
Stay tuned for me to challenge a few things he has said, though, about some advice he has given to young people just starting in the EDA world! I’m not just about the flattery…
1 From Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"