M6 Business History Workshop Programme

17 01 2012

M6 Business History Workshop

26 January 2012

Coventry University

JA102

Programme

12.45 -1.30pm    Sandwich lunch

1.30-2.15pm       Stephanie Decker, Aston Business School, “The Silence of the Archives: Business history methodology and postcolonialism”

2.15-3.00pm      Aldwin Roes, University of Sheffield, “North to Katanga: the Robert Williams group and the expansion of the South African mining frontier, c1891-1906

3.00-3.15pm Coffee

3.15-4.00pm    Bernardo Batiz-Lazo and Rasol Eskandari, Bangor University, “Does on-line publishing increase citation success?  Evidence from  Spanish accounting, business and economic history, 1997-2011”

4.00pm-4.45       Duncan Connors, Coventry University, “The Commercial Failure of British MAGNOX Nuclear Reactor Exports: The General Electric Company and the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, 1955 to 1970”

.

4.45-5pm             Final comments & end of workshop





M6 Business History Workshop: Firms’ Responses to Globalisation in Different Periods of History

17 10 2011

M6 Business History

Theme: Workshop Firms’ Responses to Globalisation in Different Periods of History

Coventry University

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The M6 Business History Group is an informal network of business historians who live and work near the M6 Motorway. The last meeting of the group was at Aston University, near Birmingham. The next one will be at Coventry University.

The Port of Liverpool Building from the River Mersey. Image was taken sometime between 1907 and 1914.

Copyright Status: Public Domain.

As scholars such as Geoffrey Jones, Jeffrey Williamson, and Kevin O’Rourke have demonstrated, globalisation is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, the world economy has experienced successive waves of globalisation and deglobalisation. How companies responded to the challenges and opportunities created by these waves is a topic of interest to a growing number of business historians. Other business historians have explored the role of specific firms in the global integration of markets.

The title of the workshop indicates that we will focus on how firms have either responded to globalisation or helped to make globalisation possible. However, we will encourage the submission of papers that do not necessarily correspond with the theme. Presenters from all disciplines are encouraged to attend this workshop, as are those who work in archives, corporate or otherwise.  Papers are welcome on any time period, area or context, both from established scholars, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate students. A small sum of money had been set aside to assist post-graduate students with travel costs. If you are interested in presenting, please submit a 200-word abstract to Andrew Smith ab0352 (at) coventry.ac.uk before 1 December 2011. If you are interested in simply attending, please return the form by 19 January 2012.

The workshop is free to attend and open to all, but for catering and space reasons, please indicate if you are intending to participate by filling in the Booking Form and emailing it to Andrew Smith.





M6 Business History Workshop

13 07 2011

M6 Business History Workshop is an informal gathering of business historians and archivists who are based in cities near the M6 motorway.

The next meeting of the group will take place at Coventry University in the autumn. I would like all business historians and archivists in the region to complete this quick survey.

Click here to take survey





M6 Business History Workshop

31 01 2011

The M6 Business History workshop is designed to allow business historians living near(ish) the M6 motorway to meet and exchange ideas. I thought I would bring your attention to their forthcoming workshop on “Historical Approaches to Organisational and Institutional Change”. It will be held at Aston University in Birmingham.

Thursday 16 February 2011
Main Building Room G8 (East wing)

Programme

12.45 -1.00pm        Registration (Main Building, Lower Foyer near reception )

1-2pm            Sandwich lunch

2-2.45pm    Simon Mollan (Durham) –  “South Africa versus the United Kingdom: double taxation, organizational change and the Union Corporation in the 1950s and 1960s”

2.45-3.30pm    Koji Yamamoto (St. Andrews) – “Distrust, Innovation, and Public Service: ‘Projecting’ in Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England”

3.30-4pm        Coffee break

4-4.45pm    Andrew Popp (Liverpool) – “History’s Wild Play: G.L.S. Shackle, Decision and Business History”

4.45-5pm        Final comments & end of workshop

Business historians deal with cases of growth and decline of individual firms, industries, countries or regions, as well as its causes and consequences. This workshop will offer a forum for scholars who are interested in the process of transition and adaptation that takes place in organisations and their institutional environments. These themes underpin a variety of historical investigations of enterprises and economies, and are equally relevant to business and management studies. Papers are welcome on any time period, area or context, both from established scholars and (post-) doctoral researchers.

The M6 Business History Workshop is run by Dr Stephanie Decker (s.decker@aston.ac.uk).





Some Thoughts Inspired by Listening to Imran Ahmad Khan MP

28 04 2021

Imran Ahmad Khan, Member of Parliament for Wakefield, is a rising force in UK politics. In part because he achieved a historic victory over a Labour incumbent in a very working-class, traditionally Labour town, Khan is seen by many as the future of the modern Conservative Party. He is one of the most visible gay Muslim politicians in the UK. A graduate of the war studies postgraduate programme at King’s College in London, he has particularly interesting things to say about geopolitics.

He recently sat down with retired economic history professor and all-round interesting smart guy Steve Davies to talk about the future of free trade and British foreign policy (listen here). Khan spoke about the UK’s long history of promoting free trade and the long-standing belief that international free trade can help to promote world peace. Historically, this theory informed the robust advocacy of free trade by a range of British and American intellectuals and political leaders from Adam Smith and Richard Cobden to Cordell Hull and other architects of the GATT in the 1940s. In 1990s many leaders in the Western democracies were too confident that the process of integrating into the world economy would make authoritarian regimes peaceful and, eventually, democratic. That optimistic theory pervaded the academic literature in that era, informed the optimistic thinking of the Clinton administration, and was popularized by the journalist Tom Friedman with his Golden Arches theory of world peace.

Today, nobody is quite so sanguine about the ability of globalization and open markets to make the world peaceful and to promote human rights. Instead of becoming more peaceful and more respectful of human rights, authoritarian regimes are becoming more bellicose and more repressive. Rather than being on the cusp of a “South Korea in the 1980s style” transition to democracy, some of the world’s authoritarian regimes have become more belligerent and more domestically repressive as they have grown wealthy via globalization. We see that pattern in a couple of the large, nuclear-armed countries in what was formerly known as the Communist bloc. This pattern is the precise opposite of what capitalist peace theory would lead one to predict.  

Liberal democracies now need to come up with the sensible ways of managing their trade with countries that are both economically important and politically authoritarian.  There are three basic approaches open to us.

One approach is to systematically cut off all of the commercial relationships that currently connect firms and households win the liberal democracies with firms and households in authoritarian regimes, which is the approach advocated by some of the people who were around Trump, such as Steve Bannon. This approach led to Trump announcing a ban on Americans using TikTok, a harmless app that had been developed by a firm that happened to be located in an authoritarian country. Trump’s TikTok ban, which was ultimately blocked by the courts, deprives American consumers of a fun little app and is unfair to the apps creators, none of whom have been shown to be responsible for any human rights abuses.   

 As Steve Davies and Professor (and now Lord) Syed Kamall  have recently argued in a recent book, adopting the approach typified by the TikTok ban would be an act of national self-harm with serious economic consequences. Moreover, it would be a deeply illiberal exercise in collective punishment, as it would punish entirely blameless individuals and firms  who happen to live in authoritarian states. It would also be counterproductive, as such an approach would cut off the flow of liberal ideas to authoritarian regimes. Davies and Kamall rightly stress that last point.

At the other extreme, there are those that say the degree to which people in a given capitalist country interact with firms in an authoritarian firm should be entirely determined by the free market. This approach would mean that if some consumers in the UK want to, say, buy goods produced by unfree labour in an authoritarian regime or if a company wishes to sell high-tech dual use technology to that country, the government shouldn’t interfere with their freedom to do so.  Let’s call that the hardcore or maximalist libertarian approach.

A middle of the road approach says that democratic governments need to set ground rules about what type of trade their citizens are allowed to do with firms and individuals in authoritarian countries. Most Western countries seem to be gravitating towards that approach. The trillion dollar question, however, is how should these rules should be set and which principles should guide their development. Who gets to decide whether a given transaction between citizens of a democracy and citizens of an authoritarian regime gets to go ahead?

Should decisions about which transactions we are going to allow to proceed be made by a centralized process involving a small number of individuals working in secrecy? Or should such decision be made through a more inclusive distributed process? In other words, should the decisions be made by government officials who issue diktat saying “We aren’t going to allow this transaction to go ahead because of national security and stuff” or do we want decisions to be more transparent and to involve multiple veto points?

There are good reasons for thinking that following principles should apply here: consistency with least-common-denominator shared values, transparency, and decentralized enforcement.

There are many problems with the centralized process approach that the US adopted under Trump.  Most obviously, there are the problems with banning specific commercial transactions on vague “national security” grounds is that the justification for such bans are usually unclear and based on classified information. “National security”, an American term that has now spread to many other countries, can be invoked in almost any case, as when Trump limited Canadian steel exports to the US on specious national security grounds.

A more fundamental problem with the centralized approach is that not all citizens may agree with the conception of national security that informs the thinking of the person or persons who are charged with deciding if a given transaction undermines national security. We wouldn’t entrust a single policymaker with the power to block all proposed transactions that are “unethical” in the opinion of a because people’s definitions of what is “unethical” are so diverse. If we are going to interfere with freedom of contract by allowing democratic governments to block some transactions involving our citizens and the citizens of authoritarian states, we need very clear standards that accord with the values of virtually all citizens. (I say virtually all because I know that 100% unanimity is impossible).   

Another problem with the approach typified by the Trump administration’s banning of TikTok on national security grounds is that decision-making about which transactions to a permit is highly centralized and is concentrated in the hands of just a few bureaucrats is almost never a good idea. Such top-down, centralized approaches are usually counterproductive because of what Hayek called the Knowledge Problem and also the enhanced probabilities for bureaucratic self-interest that emerge whenever you entrust decisions to a small group of unelected officials.

So how should democratic states make and enforce rules about what sorts of transactions their citizens are not allowed to contract with individuals and firms in authoritarian countries? There are strong theoretical reasons for believing that the best way of filtering trade between liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes is to create a distributed process for deciding which transactions are going to be banned. Ideally, this process should be grounded in moral principles that command near universal assent rather than vague judgement calls about “national security”. For instance, while many Americans clearly disagree with the principle that defending Latvia from Russia is something that US taxpayers ought to be doing, virtually everyone in that country believes that murdering individuals because of their political views is wrong. That’s why there is now widespread support for Magnitsky legislation in many Western countries. (When a country passes such a law, which are named after a Russian lawyer who was murdered by Russian officials, prevent the individuals who were involved in such crimes from doing business there).

Similarly, there is now nearly universal support for the idea that de facto enslaving people so they can produce a commodity for export is deeply immoral. I’m certain that if you look on the internet hard enough you can find a couple of racists who think that the abolition of slavery by Abraham Lincoln was a bad thing but I think we can all accept that 99% of the citizens of Western democracies now believe that slavery and social systems closely akin to slavery are wrong. Similarly, 99% of citizens in Western democracies believe that genocide is everywhere and always wrong.

The lowest common denominator norms against murder and slavery, not vague ideas about national security or the national interest, should in, my view, by the basis of laws in Western countries for limiting transactions between their citizens and persons in authoritarian regimes.   

We should also make the enforcement of these laws a more distributed process, so instead of relying on government agencies to impose fines on firms and individuals that break the rules, Western countries should create tort systems to incentivize firms and individuals not to enter into commercial transactions that facilitate murder and slavery in authoritarian regimes. Such tort systems could be modelled on the Alien Tort system in the US, which is currently being used in an effort to discourage multinational firms from using commodities produced by unfree labour. (We should all be following the case of Nestlé USA Inc vs Doe, which is now before SCOTUS). The virtue of this approach is that it would force people who believe that a given transaction would tend to result in more murder and slavery in such countries to publish evidence to support their claims. Such evidence might take the form of satellite photos and eyewitness accounts of escapees. As a tort-based approach involves more people in the process than a bureaucratic approach, which should result in better decisions.   Moreover, a tort-based approach harnesses the profit motive of lawyers and private investigators to help gather and assemble evidence of wrongdoing overseas.





My Thoughts About Miller on Teaching History in Business Schools

6 04 2021

Is historical knowledge useful to business people? If so, what types of historical knowledge are most useful to decision-makers in finance? How certain can we be that history is really useful to practitioners?

Financial history has long been a major focus of research and teaching at the International Finance Center of the Yale School of Management.  The ICF director, William Goetzmann, a finance prof who is the son of a historian, has published extensively on financial history. Scott C. Miller, a Yale ICF postdoctoral fellow in economic and business history, has published a very interesting and important blog post about the importance of teaching history in business schools. His post, which was shared today in a social media group for business historians, discusses the current state of business history teaching and research in leading US business schools. Miller’s focus is, quite rightly, on identifying the benefits to students of including more historical content in the curriculum of business schools. Miller argues, very plausibly, that this issue is very important not just to the individual students and their future job performance, but also to society as a whole. He observes that decisions about the MBA curriculum are highly consequential because they may change how people with really important jobs will make decisions:  “it is largely business school graduates who will make the economic, financial, and business decisions that prepare the ground for massive societal change. As business schools train students to make these decisions, they have the duty to remind them of the implications of these decisions as well.”

Miller makes four separate yet related claims about the benefits of learning about history. I think that the cause of promoting business history in management schools will be served by each of his claims to a steel man critique, which is the spirit of my reply to his blog post. I’ve tried to respond to each of his points below.

  1. It prevents bad, ad-hoc uses of history in decision making. Whether we acknowledge it or not, humans are historical animals. We base most of our decisions not on incoming data, but rather on the historical and cultural frameworks through which we filter that data. Since historical and cultural forces shape not only how we analyze information, but also what and how data is even collected, historically-minded analysts are much better positioned to not simply process the data they have, but understand what data they are missing and why they are missing it.

    On a practical level, teaching economic, financial, and business history well in business schools will help prevent the ultimate analytical error: fighting the last battle. Since humans intrinsically look to the past for guidance, they tend to find solutions in the past as well.

My thoughts: We are all familiar with the aphorism that generals are constantly fighting that last war. I suppose the desire to prevent this error helps to explain why staff colleges have invested so heavily in military history and why so many schools of policy analysis require their students to read the famous book by Neustadt and May called Thinking In Time: The Uses Of History For Decision Makers. I’m very confident that proper empirical research using such methods as in a randomized control trial would confirm the hypothesis that learning history and then thinking historically about important decisions can indeed be useful in promoting the correct use of history. However, right now this claim is just an untested hypothesis and we need to acknowledge that limitation in keeping with the principle of intellectual humility (the third learning outcome identified by Miller). Experimental research on the effects of learning history or thinking about history is still very under-developed, notwithstanding some important early papers by Gilovitch (1981) and others. I have long argued that the case for teaching business history in North American management schools would be boosted by the publication of robustly scientific research results that supports this hypothesis. Simply presenting this hypothesis as already proved by any shadow of a doubt may actually be counterproductive as it may cause sceptical audience members (e.g., your standard finance prof) to ask “How do you know that?” We need a iron-clad proof that teaching history is functional to overcome the opposition documented by Miller.

  • It promotes long-term thinking. While we are unlikely to break the tyranny of the quarterly report any time soon, teaching history forces business school students to think in the longue durée. Analysts who think in the long term are less susceptible to mistaking volatility spikes for the greater trend, and thus better structure investments and firms that are successful over 20, 50, and even 100 or more years. (My SOM colleague Paul Schmelzing’s work on the “suprasecular” decline of interest rates over the last 700 years is a perfect example of this.)

Once again, the argument that learning business history promoted long-term thinking in businesspeople remains an untested hypothesis, albeit one that is very plausible to me. Miller’s claim that teaching history promotes long-term thinking is certainly more plausible to me than the view that the most cost-efficient way to promote long-term thinking is to change how we write dates. Some readers will be aware that Russell Brand and the Long Now Foundation have argued that changing the way we write out the date by adding a zero at the front (e.g., “02021”) would encourage long-term thinking and thus better decisions. The Long Now Foundation’s claim has never been tested, however.

Neither has anyone been able to test the theory that learning about financial history, the cycle of boom and bust, Tulipmania, 1929, and all that, makes a financial decision-maker behave in a less risky fashion.  A couple of years ago, I sought out funding to run some experiments with some collaborators to test some of the claims that have been made over the years about the impact of teaching history in business. Unfortunately, the funders didn’t give us the money to do the research and nobody has, to my knowledge, done similar research.

As I wrote in 2018, one of the common justifications for teaching history to future managers and decision-makers is that awareness of the past makes them better judges of risk. After the 2008 financial crisis, which revealed that many managers had incorrectly judged financial risks (via misplaced optimism about the prices of particular securities), there were calls for the sharing of more historical information with businesspeople. For instance, the Bloomberg business news service established its Echoes column, which showcased economic-historical research related to the 1929 stock market crisis and other episodes in financial history.  To date, however, nobody has rigorous tested the conjecture that promoting greater awareness of history would actually improve the behaviour of businesspeople by one or more measurable indicators.

Luckily for purposes, there is an extensive body of experimental research in psychology, finance, and other fields, on the determinants of individual’s levels of financial risk aversion. Many of these experiments involve requiring subjects to participate in the Iowa Gambling Task. Some of this research looks at how fixed traits (e.g., gender) influence risk preferences, while others examine how the administration of certain hormone (e.g., an injection of testosterone) can change a given individual’s level of financial risk aversion (see Nave et al., 2017; Kusev et al., 2017). In such experiments, risk aversion is usually measured through behaviour in games played for small sums of money. For our immediately purposes, the most relevant area of research on financial risk aversion relates to cognitive priming.  In psychological research, “cognitive priming” involves presenting subjects with images or words that trigger the recall of prior knowledge that in turn has a measurable effect on many types of behaviour. 

The question for us is: how does cognitive priming that surfaces an individual’s historical knowledge change their aversion to financial risk?  Since we know from (Gilovich, 1981)  that cognitive priming by evoking memories of different historical wars (World War Two, Vietnam) changes how American individuals thinking about proposed military action by the United States,[1] there are strong apriori reasons to expect that reminding people about different episodes in financial history would change individuals’ appetites for financial risk. In the experiment I proposed in 2018, subjects would be randomly divided into two groups. One group would be presented with a short historical text about the financial history of the United States in the 1920s that would end with the 1929 stock market crash. The other group would be presented with a short historical text about a successful entrepreneurial firm (say Intel) that does not include references to ANY financial setbacks and crises. We would then compare the behavior of the two groups on the Iowa Gambling Task, a computer game that measures appetite for financial risk.  If there is a significant differences between the revealed risk aversion of the two groups, we will be able to confirm our hypothesis that historical knowledge changes how people perceive risk.

  • It fosters humility. At the beginning of my economic and financial history courses, students routinely begin questions with some variation of, “We know that these people were less sophisticated than us, so…” By this they tend to mean, “we have better data, more developed analytic theory, and better computational tools, so I know that we would not have made these mistakes.” Interestingly enough, however, this prelude always disappears by the end of the semester.

Would repeated cognitive priming with references to history in either the classroom or the workplace serve to remind decision-makers of history in a fashion that would promote intellectual humility? Anecdotally, we know the Warren Buffett has explained his decision to put framed newspapers from the 1929 market crash in his office by saying he wanted to remind to surround himself with a reminder of bad decisions taken by other investors.

  • It reminds students of the raw power to shape society that they will soon wield. I firmly believe that economic crises, not political or social trends, cause profound societal shifts. The Depression of the 1780’s, not independence from Great Britain, resulted in the U.S. Constitution.

Ok. Good point.


[1] This experiment (Gilovich, 1981) involved a population of US university students majoring in International Relations who were randomly divided into two groups. One group was exposed to text that reminded them of Neville Chamberlain, the well-known appeaser of Nazi Germany. The half of the population was exposed to texts designed to trigger the recall of knowledge about Lyndon Johnson, the President whose decision to escalate the Vietnam War is now generally perceived to have been a mistake. The subjects were then asked about a hypothetical situation in which the United States had the option to use military force against a non-democratic regime in a distant country. Subjects who were cognitively primed via the references to Neville Chamberlain were measurably more likely to support military intervention than those who had been subtly reminded of the Vietnam War via the references to Lyndon Johnson.  





History in Management and Organization Research Seminar (HiMOS)

10 03 2021

The History in Management and Organization Research Seminar (HiMOS) series is organized by researchers in the Strategy and Entrepreneurship research group at Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics, Finland. In the research group, we have had a long-standing seminar series in the intersection between history and management and organization research. The COVID-19 situation forced the organizers to broaden our geographical reach and move the seminar online, which is actually fantastic news for researchers around the world who are very interested in their seminars, since this change dramatically reduces the costs of participation.

The aim of this seminar series is to help open up the black box of “practicing” history in the context of management and organization studies.

Anyway, I’m now pleased to share details of the next seminar.

We are very proud to have another great lineup of speakers sharing their insights and workshopping their papers, including Eero Vaara (Saïd Oxford, keynote), Christina Lubinski (Copenhagen Business School), and Antti Sihvonen (JSBE).

Event details:

Date: Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Time:   2pm-5pm (UTC+2, Finland)

1pm-4pm (UTC+1, Central European Time)

Noon-3pm (UTC+0, UK)

Please register by click here

After the registration, you will receive the Zoom link, passcode, and the full version of the working papers one week before the seminar.

Program

Keynote:

Eero Vaara (Saïd Oxford): ”How to learn from unusual organizations?”

Working paper presentations:

Christina Lubinski (Copenhagen Business School): ”The Sound of Opportunity: Aural Temporality, Entrepreneurial Opportunity & the Evolution of Markets” (with Dan Wadhwani, University of Southern California)

Antti Sihvonen (JSBE): “Chance, Strategy and Change: The Structure of Contingency in the Evolution of the Nokia Corporation, 1986–2015” (with Jaakko Aspara, NEOMA; Juha-Antti Lamberg, JSBE; Henrikki Tikkanen, Aalto)

HiMOS is organized by the Strategy and Entrepreneurship research group of Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics (JSBE). The purpose of the seminar series is the advancement of historical research in management and organization studies. Seminars are organized twice per year. In each seminar we will have one keynote speaker with a recent history-related publication sharing their insights and experiences and 2–3 advanced working paper presentations.

If you are interested in presenting in future seminars, contact the organizers Zeerim Cheung (zeerim.cheung@jyu.fi) and Christian Stutz (christian.stutz@jyu.fi).





The Library of Mistakes

25 07 2019

 

There is increasing interest in business schools in History-as-Sensemaking (i.e., the use of history by business people to understand the present and plan for the future). Indeed, this issue was discussed extensively at the recent EGOS conference in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is the site of a fascinating institution, the Library of Mistakes, which serves to make information about financial, economic, and business history available to businesspeople, especially those who are active in Edinburgh’s important investment management cluster. The Library of Mistakes is a  Scottish charity (registered charity SC040205) founded to promote the study of financial history. According to the BBC, it maintains a small but excellent library in Edinburgh that hosts talks by experts.

The company associated with the Library of Mistakes, Didasko Education Ltd, supports the teaching of a course called the Practical History of Financial Markets, which forms a unit of the Edinburgh Business School MBA programme.  The course is also taught at a private venue in London and at a business school in India.  According to a filing with Companies House, most of the people who take the course are professional fund managers. I had quick look at the teaching schedule of the upcoming course in London (31 October to 2 November 2019) and it looks fantastic.

The Library’s mission statement declares that

In recent years financial education has focused on the power of the equation to explain economic and financial forces. This distillation of complex forces into faux objectivity has created dangerous errors in financial understanding… The Library of Mistakes exists to allow students, professionals and members of the general public to study financial history to understand how finance has worked, rather than how it should work if key unrealistic assumptions are made.

 

 





Les Hannah on the History of Barclays

24 04 2015

Just in time for its tumultuous AGM (for outbursts by shareholders, see here), Barclays bank has produced a video on the history of this venerable financial institution. The video features the distinguished business historian Les Hannah talking about the bank’s history and values. The video alludes to the bank’s Quaker founders and long history of involvement in overseas business.

The video is interesting on a number of levels, not least as an example of constitutive historicism and a fine case of a firm using its heritage in investor relations.





Facebook Drones

5 03 2014

I gave a lecture last week to our first-year International Business students on technological innovation. I spoke about national innovation systems around the world and noted that a fairly high percentage of R&D spending in the US is funnelled through the military-industrial complex (see below). I also pointed out that many military technologies end up having lots of civilian applications.

 

Here is a great example of this phenomenon:  Facebook may be looking to buy a drone manufacturer so that it can use permanently airborne drones to bring internet access to consumers in developing countries. Titan Aerospace is developing solar powered drones that can stay aloft for five years at a time.

Facebook may be preparing its next major purchase. According to TechCrunch andCNBC, Facebook will buy drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace for $60 million and plans to use its vehicles to help spread internet access worldwide. A drone manufacturer would obviously be a strange acquisition for Facebook, which has largely focused on buying consumer technology companies and apps — most notably, WhatsApp and Instagram. But both outlets report that the purchase will serve Internet.org, an initiative launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year that holds the goal of bringing the entire world online.

This is totally awesome.