Artificial intelligence and copyrights. Who owns the AI images?

I am quoted several times in this article (in Danish) by Peter Svarre on Artificial Intelligence and copyrights. Who owns the AI images?

Here are some of the quotes in my translation from English to English:

And that brings us back to the question of who actually owns these AI-created images. Or actually, there are three questions:

  • First, one might ask whether it’s even morally or legally okay to harvest billions of images from the internet, use them to train an artificial intelligence, and then make money selling access to that artificial intelligence.
  • Second, many of those who have tried the systems are probably wondering whether they actually own the copyright to the images they have created.
  • And finally, some companies are probably concerned that they may be infringing the copyright of others if they use images created by an artificial intelligence.

Our new creative helpers have become creative because they’ve been trained on billions of images from the internet. And it doesn’t matter which images we’re talking about. Some images are protected by copyright and can only be used to train an AI if the owner of the image has given explicit permission. Other images, however, are in the public domain or covered by Creative Commons licences, which allow a web crawler to “scrape” them to train an algorithm.

“There’s no human’s consciousness or creativity in these machines,” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk, a lawyer and digital copyright expert. “The artificial intelligences are trained on images, and if there were no images at the beginning that ordinary people had made, then nothing came out the other side. And so it’s debatable whether there’s copyright infringement when Dall-E and the others process these images. And there would be, for example, if they hacked a database and copied all the images. But if they are based on publicly available databases, then they have permission to use the images to train artificial intelligence, and then there is no copyright infringement.”

It is therefore also interesting that artists around the internet have started to criticise these systems because they can see how their own (copyrighted) images have very likely been used to train the artificial intelligences.

There are examples of images where the artist’s signature has been preserved and is being recreated when creating images in that artist’s style. And stories have been told of people who can recognise almost 1:1 a photograph they have taken. It’s not exactly identical, but so close to the original that it seems unlikely that the original hasn’t been used to train artificial intelligence.

The problem, of course, is that the original images are no longer present inside the artificial intelligences, so it can be incredibly difficult to prove outright copyright infringement. But if, down the road, cases emerge where it is quite clear that the artificial intelligences have been trained on copyrighted material (for example from Disney, Heinz or others with a strong interest in preserving their copyright), Martin von Haller Grønbæk could well imagine that legal action would be taken against the companies that developed the artificial intelligences.

I’ve had a paid subscription to Midjourney for a little over a month and have generated a couple of hundred images, and all these images feel like my images. I may have only provided a few words while the artificial intelligence did all the rough work, but they still feel like my unique creations. And I’m confirmed if I go and read Midjourney’s Terms of Service, which says: “Subject to the above license, you own all Assets you create with the Services.”

But that promised ownership is bullshit, say both von Haller and Jonathan Løw. You can’t own something created by a machine. Indeed, copyright can only be granted to humans, and a machine cannot create a work and then assign copyright to a human.

In the US, there have been several cases where artists have created generative art using artificial intelligence, and in almost all cases the US Copyright Office refuses to grant the artists copyright in the work. A few years ago there was even a case where a monkey had taken a selfie and this photograph could not be copyrighted either because it was not taken by a human.

Martin von Haller has heard the question many times before when it comes to AI-created images: ‘Who owns the image?’ he asks, continuing: ‘I guess you’d have to say that nobody does, because it’s generated by an AI, and so under copyright law nobody can get the copyright. But if the person using the AI service, or the service itself, can be said to have a verifiable creative part in the creation of the individual AI-generated work, then you can start talking about independent copyright protection. But this requires a thorough understanding of the AI service in question, the underlying algorithm and the user’s interaction with it, for example by establishing criteria and parameters.”

In other words, it might get a little grey in the grey, but most lawyers can agree that you don’t own the copyright to the images you create in Midjourney or Dall-E because your creative efforts are simply too small. Therefore, if you choose to use your images commercially, other people are free to use the images for other commercial purposes because they are not protected by copyright. This is worth bearing in mind before you commission Midjourney to design your new logo or corporate visual identity.

The problem, of course, is that it quickly becomes a bit unclear when something is created by a machine and when it is created by a human. You can already see examples of designers using AI-created images for inspiration, which they then work on to design a shoe, a handbag or a piece of art. Here, artificial intelligence is used only as a working tool, and humans provide the essential creativity required for copyright.

In the future, we will see more and more creative work tools such as Photoshop, Figma and CAD programs that have built-in artificial intelligences that can generate designs as an integral part of the human creative process, and when is the design created by a human or a machine?

There is much to suggest that copyright law will need to be updated or at least clarified in a world where humans and intelligent machines are increasingly merging.

Here, however, von Haller is more sceptical. He believes it will be really difficult for rights holders to prove that images created by an artificial intelligence are a direct copy of another work. It has to be really close to the original image to be considered a copyright infringement. But it certainly can’t be ruled out, he says. For example, if you find that a specific AI-generated image is so close to a copyrighted image that you think the former is a derivative work of the latter. However, he believes that companies in particular should be aware of what he calls reputational risk, the risk of being dragged through a shitstorm on social media because a big bad company created a million-dollar business on an AI-modified design of, say, a vase or a coffee pot. Just think of Christian Bitz or Kenneth Plummer.

In other words, you can probably use your AI-created images on social media, in articles and blog posts, but as soon as you start using your images commercially, you should think twice and really take the same considerations you would in any other copyright matter.

From a legal standpoint, there’s really not much new about creative artificial intelligences. Humans have always used machines of various kinds to create creative works (passports, rulers, Photoshop, CAD programs and so on). Many of the doubts discussed in this article could therefore be dealt with by existing legislation and case law. As expressed in an article in Wired, only directly man-made things can confer rights. Machines CANNOT be copyrighted and cannot seriously in a legal sense be creative, until now. The big problem is that generative AI art questions what creativity is and where the line is for human-created copyrighted creativity. What about non-human creative geniuses like Midjourney and Dall-E?

“THE PURPOSE OF copyright, per the Constitution, is to promote the progress of art. The dominant justification for intellectual property among US legal scholars today is the incentive theory, the idea that in granting authors a limited monopoly over their work, we stimulate artistic production by dangling a monetary reward. Without the promise of a payday, the theory runs, creative people would stop creating. But US copyright law does a much better job of accommodating the old model of the lonely genius toiling in solitude than it does collaboration, even collaboration between human authors. When a collaboration extends to include nonhuman authors, the law recoils.”

However, there is every indication that the new creative artificial intelligences will become ubiquitous in our everyday and working lives. In the future, we may create our own personalised family videos, feature films or 3D meta-verses using artificial intelligence. And design companies, advertising agencies and architects will have to work in entirely new ways. As these tools become bigger, better and far more widespread, we will see industries challenged and new industries emerge, and therefore we will certainly see court cases challenging the use and creations of creative artificial intelligences. It will be Dall-E versus man, and the verdict will require a new creative legal understanding of human creativity.

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IT industry ‘godfather’: the battles I took brought attention

As an IT lawyer, Martin Grønbæk has spent his entire career in the IT industry. Not only as a lawyer, but also as the founder of an IT company. Now he’s working on a new project to hold those in power to account.

Excerpts and quotes from an article written by Tine Brødegaard Hansen, published 25 August 2022 in the Danish online media ITwatch on the occasion of my 60th birthday in spring 2022. The full article in Danish can be read here, but is unfortunately behind a paywall.

Here are some excerpts and quotes that I am allowed to publish here, as I am the holder of copyright to my own words:

“Many of the causes I’ve fought for have to do with open source and sharing data and
information. Although at the time it was heretical to talk about sharing software and content,
you didn’t have to be very bright to see that this was the future,” says Martin von Haller
Grønbæk as he enjoys a croissant in Klub‘s café in Nørrebro.

The battle with PBS, the Danish de facto monopoly over electronic payments, was “a funny business”, he recalls. “E-commerce was the first commercial opportunity to be seen as the internet took off. But you couldn’t have an e-commerce business if nobody could pay, so the credit card had to go on the Internet,” he says, continuing, “PBS was against that because it would open up the possibility of paying with international credit cards. It became a very heated discussion that could move billions of dollars for Danish business and their payment providers.”

“They were hoping they could hug us to death. But it was great, because everyone wanted to hear what we were saying, and everyone was afraid of our association. At the time, everything was about the fee size on Dankort transactions, and we were the unpredictable heavyweight at the weight school,” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk.

Martin von Haller Grønbæk also became an unpopular figure in Klareboderne, where Gyldendal, the largest Danish publishing house, is based. One day, as he was entering the publishing house for a meeting, Stig Andersen, the managing director at the time, opened a window and shouted “don’t let that man in, he’s dangerous”. The reason was that Martin was a co-founder of Creative Commons, an international organisation that fought for authors and their publishers to share books, music and other content on open source terms. It would “destroy their existing business models,” Martin von Haller Grønbæk explains.

Not everyone would think it was so cool to take on powerful forces and have many enemies, where did the belligerence come from? “No, of course not. If you’re a young person working in a big law firm and you’re on a partner track, you think about not taking on the establishment,” he says, adding, “But I basically didn’t have that problem because I had just started our own little law firm with a few others. The fights brought attention in the tech industry and the press, and it brought new clients.”

For although he had “seen the light” in the US during his studies in the early 90s and knew that the internet would be big in Denmark and that it would provide plenty of legal work, that was not the conventional wisdom yet. “When I came home, I was kind of alone in that belief.”

While setting up the law firm’s website, Martin von Haller Grønbæk met a DTU student named Alexander Aghassipour. Together they founded one of Denmark’s first internet companies, Araneum. At first the aim was to help companies create websites, but later it grew into a large consultancy with designers, developers and strategic consultants.
“Araneum had become quite big by the end of the 90s and, when dotcom prices were at their peak, was valued at a billion kroner. I owned 15 per cent, but we made an exit on the wrong side of the dotcom bubble, so we didn’t get anything out of it,” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk, adding, “I could then go back and be a lawyer. Alexander was more on the ball, but a few years later he helped start Zendesk, one of the first Danish unicorns (which has just been sold for about DKK 73 billion, ed.).”

After the crash, there was a collective sigh of relief from the established industries, including the legal profession, according to Martin von Haller Grønbæk. “It was a bit like everyone was saying, ‘phew, it didn’t work out with The internet companies didn’t come to anything anyway. Now it’s going to be like the good old days’.” While the big law firms lost focus on startups, Martin von Haller Grønbæk held on, he says. “It’s certainly not because I’m a particularly good person, but I had no other specialties.”

“When I was 10-15 years older than most of them, I was called the Godfather. It should probably be more have been Il Consiglieri,” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk.

There are few similarities between the early years of the internet and what it has since evolved into into. Still, Martin Grønbæk sees a clear common thread. “Technological solutions are constantly dancing between centralisation and decentralisation, control and non-control, monopoly and competition,” he says, pointing out that companies like Google are trying to monopolise the data generated by internet use.

“Now we see blockchain technology as an attempt to decentralise data. So when someone has figured out how to create a monopoly on top of or next to a blockchain, then a new technology will emerge with the ability to disrupt.”

“It’s controversial to have that position when you sit on the Data Council, but it’s related because, obviously, I’m in favour of the rules that we democratically adopted also being respected. Because you want to live in a society based on the rule of law, you can also think that some of the rules are completely wrong,” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk and adds: “Therefore, I can easily think that the GDPR is basically a big mistake that does not safeguard the personal data of ordinary people to a degree that in any way justifies the huge social costs of thus imposing a ‘Lawyers tax’ on information, on innovation and on small businesses.”

Matriarchal society. State interference in the protection of our data is an expression of the fact that we live in what is today a matriarchal society, says Martin von Haller Grønbæk. At the moment it is embodied by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, but it might as well be some of the male and bourgeois politicians: “Mom or dad will decide what you can be exposed to on the internet. You’re not big to find out for yourself,” he says.

“When you restrict freedom of communication with rules about what you can say on Facebook, for example, and require platforms to filter content and ban anonymity, then I think you’re going over the line,” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk. “But where do we draw the line on what we can model? The debate on algorithms and digital protection is always about doing it for the sake of others. In reality very little research, if any, to suggest that these algorithms are manipulating people.” says Martin von Haller Grønbæk.

The tech giants and social media companies are not someone we should be afraid of, says Martin von Haller Grønbæk, who adds that they need to be regulated very strictly through rules on transparency, competition and tax. “In the old days, people thought Microsoft and Windows had won, but then came Google, open source and Linux. Now you think nothing ever wins over big tech and Amazon. But the venture capitalists who invested in Amazon and the others becoming big want to invest in something new that will break the monopoly. That’s how capitalism works, if there is competition,” he says.

“Our contention is that the judiciary in Denmark is not playing its role sufficiently in the tripartite division of power. There is a need for the three bodies and the press to check each other. And here we believe that the courts are not fully on board.” According to Martin von Haller Grønbæk, this is because it is almost impossible for private individuals to bring cases against legislators or the government.
“The attorneys general (who are lawyers for the state, ed.) are allocated endless resources.”

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We are in the middle of Pride week 33, 2022 here in Copenhagen. I’ve been helping with legal work for Fluid Festival, which has also been held this weekend. Fluid Festival celebrates with music, talks etc. the people whose relationship to sexuality goes under labels like trans and queer and probably many others that I just don’t know.

I have been reading Lucy Cooks’ book Bitch, which is about gender perceptions in the animal kingdom. The main point here is probably that although it is an indisputable biological reality that life can only arise if male and female gametes, sperm and eggs, meet and fertilise, there are no limits to how gender roles are distributed in the animal world. Everything is up for evolutionary negotiation. Moreover, these roles often change over time, not only in evolutionary time but also during the life of individual animals. Thus, sex and gender roles are very often fluid.

When one has a politically and philosophically liberal outlook, as I have, this evolution towards more fluidity, whether based on the logic of selfish genes or on the free will of human beings, is to be welcomed. The extension of the human right to self-determination is, as a clear starting point, a good thing.

So where do I go with this? Well, I was reading this morning a fascinating short story The Moving Target of Being by Suzanne Scanlon from the latest issue of Granta (thanks to @Lone Frank for bringing this excellent literary magazine to my attention, now snugly 10 years ago). Here the concept of fluidity is extended to people’s self-diagnoses of various mental illnesses from which they suffer (or perhaps don’t suffer).

Scanlon cites as an example the mental disorder multiple personality disorder, or MPD, where the number of diagnoses rose dramatically through the 1970s, 80s and well into the 1990s, following the publication of a popular book about a woman allegedly suffering from MPD. Following this mention of MPD, more and more patients (mostly women in the case of MPD) emerged claiming to exhibit these symptoms. Sometimes they had already made the MPD diagnosis themselves, sometimes doctors pushed them in that direction.

I guess you could say that similar trends are seen today with many new diagnoses such as gender disorders, AHDH, various forms of stress and anxiety, and others (which I admit to not having a clue about). Young people in particular are influenced by the zeitgeist – or we could call it fashion – and then “feel” that they have a specific mental disorder or belong to a particular gender. This may then not be supported by a medical and therefore objective diagnosis. If patients feel that they have this disorder, then this is crucial, especially in such a fluid area as mental illness.

The fluidity – and hence the parallel to fluidity within sex and gender roles – here consists in the fact that in a modern rich and tolerant society like ours we allow fluidity, also when it comes to mental health. Citizens are often encourage to alter between different illnesses based on their own free will (under substantial external influences from psychiatrists, commercial companies, opinion makers, influencers etc).

Personally, I think this is part of the progression towards a more liberal society.

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Time of the Sorcerers and Fire of Freedom

The modern European philosophers of the period between the First and Second World Wars have always interested me. But I have always felt that their works were so inaccessible to ordinary mortals. So the fascination has never led to actually reading any of them.

This, in itself, has not changed. But in 2018, Wolfram Eilenberger, a German writer for Die Zeit, published the book Zeit der Zauberer – Das Große Jahrzehnt der Philosophie 1919-1929, in which he interweaves four biographies of Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) and Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) with a solid dose of professional philosophical theory and an apt diagnosis of the times in 1920s Germany.

It’s incredibly well done, and a bone-chilling subject ends up being at once both exciting and entertaining, and genuinely insightful into the thoughts of the four philosophers. I read the book – or rather heard it – in 2021.

I have been looking forward to the sequel Feuer der Freiheit – Die Rettung der Philosophie in finsterer Zeit 1933-1943, published in German in 2020, being translated into Danish. It was last year, but it is only recently that I have read it. And the pleasure and yield have been equally great this time.

The Fire of Freedom follows the time of the Sorcerers both chronologically – it covers the years 1933 to 1943 – and on a personal level, two of the main characters are also tied to two of the Sorcerers through friendships. The four women whose lives and thoughts the book describes in parallel are Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil and Ayn Rand.

The four may not be philosophical beacons like Cassirer, Benjamin, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, but their intellectual significance for posterity seems beyond debate. I’m generally not that fond of left-wing French intellectuals, so Beauvoir is not my favourite here. Hannah Arendt is very interesting, and Ayn Rand is an outsider who is hard to rate.

I have, however, become deeply fascinated by the person and thoughts of Simone Weil, and following this book I have plunged into some of her works (all of which, fortunately, are concise and not difficult to read).

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Feminist literature

I have set out to read a fair amount of old so-called feminist classics and then some of the new literature written by new feminist talents. (I must admit that I have not taken any further position here on whether we are talking about first, second, third or even fourth generation feminists).

My interest is, of course, due to a general curiosity to find out what it is that everyone is talking about. But I must also be honest in saying that I would like to be able to challenge many of the wry younger women you often meet at dinner parties by actually having read – often in opposition to themselves – some of all the books they refer to.

Here, then, are two of the latest books I’ve been reading here in the last two weeks:

Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar

Cecilie Lind – Girl Beast

Both books are recommended. They are also quick reads :-).

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Crypto er det nye vilde vesten?

Fabio Panetta (medlem af ECB‘s direktion) holdt 25. april 2022 på Columbia University et indlæg med titlen “For a few cryptos more: the Wild West of crypto finance“. Som det fremgår nedenfor, talte lige ud af posen.

Han indledte sin indlæg med nogle generelle bemærkninger:

“Krypto-evangelisterne lover himlen på jorden og bruger en illusorisk fortælling om stadigt stigende priser på kryptoaktiver til at opretholde interessen og dermed det momentum, der giver næring til kryptoboblen. Men det lader til at være et vildledende bedrag. Satoshi Nakamotos drøm om at skabe troværdige penge er stadig kun det – en drøm. Kryptoaktiver skaber ustabilitet og usikkerhed – det stik modsatte af, hvad de lovede. De skaber et nyt Vildt Vesten.”

Derefter dækkede han følgende fire centrale emner. De vigtigste takeaways var disse:

Politiske spørgsmål:

  • Kryptomarkedet er nu større end markedet for subprime-lån var, da det – med en værdi af 1,3 billioner USD – udløste den globale finanskrise.
  • Kryptoaktiver uden sikkerhedsstillelse kan ikke opfylde deres oprindelige formål, nemlig at lette betalinger. De er ganske enkelt for ustabile til at opfylde pengenes tre funktioner: valutamiddel, værdiopbevaring og regningsenhed.
  • Kryptoaktiver anvendes i vid udstrækning til kriminelle og terroristiske aktiviteter. Det anslås, at de beløb i kryptoaktiver, der udveksles til kriminelle formål, er betydelige og overstiger 24 mia. De kan også anvendes til skatteunddragelse eller til at omgå sanktioner.
  • Kryptoaktiver baseret på proof-of-work (PoW)-blokkæder kan også forårsage enorme mængder forurening og miljøskader.

Risici for den finansielle stabilitet:

  • Kryptoaktiver er spekulative aktiver, der kan forårsage store skader på samfundet. Kryptoaktiver udgør risici for den finansielle stabilitet gennem tre hovedkanaler:
    – For det første kan pres på markederne for kryptoaktiver smitte af på aktører i det bredere finansielle system gennem deres direkte besiddelse af aktiver eller ejerskab af tjenesteudbydere af kryptoteknologier.
  • – For det andet kan et fald i værdien af kryptoaktiver have en indvirkning på investorers formue med afsmittende virkning på det finansielle system.
    – For det tredje kan et tab af tillid til værdien af kryptoaktiver – f.eks. på grund af operationelle fejl, svig, kursmanipulation eller cyberkriminalitet – føre til en kraftig forringelse af investorers tillid.

Regulering af kryptoaktiver:

  • Der er brug for en globalt koordineret reguleringsindsats for at løse problemer som f.eks. brugen af kryptoaktiver i grænseoverskridende ulovlige aktiviteter eller deres miljømæssige fodaftryk.
  • Reguleringen bør afbalancere risici og fordele for ikke at kvæle innovation, der kan stimulere effektiviteten i betalinger og bredere anvendelser af disse teknologier. Her fremførte Fabio Panetta 4 ideer om regulering:
  1. At holde kryptoaktiver til de samme standarder som resten af det finansielle system. Det betyder hurtig gennemførelse af alle regler for at forhindre brugen af kryptoaktiver til hvidvaskning af penge og finansiering af terrorisme på grundlag af de standarder, der er fastsat af Den Finansielle Aktionsgruppe (FATF), og en effektiv håndhævelse af dem.
  2. At bringe beskatningen af kryptoaktiver på linje med beskatningen af andre instrumenter og tilstræbe tilpasning på tværs af jurisdiktioner i betragtning af kryptomarkedets globale karakter.
  3. Offentliggørelse og reguleringsrapportering skal styrkes.
  4. Tilsynsmyndighederne bør indføre strenge krav om gennemsigtighed og fastsætte de adfærdsstandarder, som professionelle operatører skal følge, for at beskytte uerfarne detailinvestorer i kryptoaktiver.

Regulering på EU plan:

  • Hurtige forhandlinger mellem Europa-Kommissionen, Europa-Parlamentet og Rådet for Den Europæiske Union samt en grundig håndhævelse fra de kompetente nationale myndigheders side er nødvendige i betragtning af den hurtige vækst på kryptomarkedet.
  • Europas reguleringsforanstaltninger skal gå videre. At fokusere mere på aktiviteter med kryptoaktiver uden sikkerhedsstillelse, der udføres uden tjenesteudbydere.
  • Desuden er der ikke råd til at lade on-chain peer-to-peer-betalinger være uregulerede, da de kan bruges til at omgå enhver regulering. Endelig bør den nye europæiske AML-myndighed, hvis man virkelig ønsker at harmonisere tilsynet betydeligt i alle EU’s medlemsstater, føre tilsyn med de mest risikable udbydere af kryptoaktiver.
  • Man bør fokuserer på en digital euro for at give borgerne mulighed for at bruge statslige penge til at foretage betalinger overalt i euroområdet, samtidig med at vi beskytter dens rolle som et anker for betalings- og monetære systemer.

Tak til min kollega Lluis Girbau Cabanas fra Bird & Bird i Bruxelles for input to dette indlæg

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Meaningful work?

Martin von Haller Grønbæk

Not a day goes by with a newspaper article or a conversation in the HR department of an organisation without hearing about “the purpose driven organisation” and how employees demand meaningful work.

As is always the case, these new concepts cover old self-evident facts wrapped in management jargon in powerpoint presentations delivered by external consultants.

As this article in the Economist aptly describes, most empirical studies show that all employees seek some form of meaning at work, as well as in their lives more generally. Surely, there is nothing new in that. What is new here is that consultants have caught the wind of the zeitgeist and now believe that meaning equals “making a difference” or “changing the world for the better”.

However, neither the world nor the people who work in it are that simple. As the Economist states:

The very idea of a purposeful employee conjures up a specific type of person. They crave a meaningful job that changes society for the better. When asked about their personal passion projects, they don’t say “huh?” or “playing Wordle”. They are concerned about their legacy and almost certainly have a weird diet.

Yet this is not the only way to think about purpose-driven employees. New research from Bain, a consultancy, into the attitudes of 20,000 workers across ten countries confirms that people are motivated by different things.

Bain identifies six different archetypes, far too few to reflect the complexity of individuals but a lot better than a single lump of employees. “Pioneers” are the people on a mission to change the world; “artisans” are interested in mastering a specific skill; “operators” derive a sense of meaning from life outside work; “strivers” are more focused on pay and status; “givers” want to do work that directly improves the lives of others; and “explorers” seek out new experiences.

Here, human complexity is even broken down into just six archetypes. After all, there are probably as many types as there are people, and their preferences change over time. Defining a purpose shared by all or even most is as futile as trying to divide people into identities. People are the same only by virtue of the fact that we are all human.

If you want to operate a purpose-driven business, you should go back to good old Milton Friedman, who said that the purpose of a business is to increase profits for its owners (“The Social Responsibility of Business Is To Increase Its Profits“).

Today, however – as always – the reality is that you cannot run a profitable business if you do not have good and motivated employees. And you will only get that if you enable them to find meaning in their work, fulfil their ambitions and pursue their dreams.

The manager can only do this by creating a framework in the workplace for employees’ individual preferences and choices to this effect. This makes sense today, when knowledge workers in particular are in high demand, but it is not a new thing. The solution is therefore not to spend expensive consultancy fees on today’s slogans invented to meet the need to win at bullshit bingo.

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