JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 125 : 14 July 2003

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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Problematic paradoxes

Our country is now beset with grave political and social dilemmas. The frenzied media keep spinning out some version or other of the news, as events unfold like some terrible tornado in slow motion. And in response, these words just click out of my keyboard. I can't proceed here with less weighty, more ordinary stuff when my mind keeps pulling me back to the paradoxical problems facing all of us. Please, bear with me.

America, a peace-loving democracy, is now feared by most of the world as war-mongering. Our troops are said to be defending freedom, after we started a war half a world away. In his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, President Bush cited stunning evidence suggesting a nuclear threat, evidence which we now learn had been forged. Colin Powell refused to include this discredited statement in his address to the UN on Feb. 5, only one week later.

We were told many times that the enemy was armed with WMDs, but not one has yet been found. The rhetoric abruptly changed, that there were "programs" for WMDs. Our aim was liberation, for people who now consider us an alien occupying force. We are told the war was over, yet our soldiers continue to die daily. Mr. Bush's response? Macho madness: "I say, bring 'em on!" Try explaining that to the families of the casualties.

Here is something I cannot understand - in March polls reported that the number of Americans who believed that Saddam Hussein was "behind 9/11" (what the Administration had endlessly been implying) had increased from 4% to 56%. We went to war to rid Iraq of the evil dictator, but he still lives in spite of a $25M reward on his head. The watching world is aware that the reward merely demonstrates our own money-motivation, but yields no informers. And Osama bin Laden. Remember him? With that same price on his head, this seemingly forgotten arch-terrorist still remains at large.

Here at home, the economy is limping and unemployment is at the highest level in a decade, bringing respectable middle-class breadwinners to the breadlines. And our government continues to spend an estimated $1 B per week on the Iraqi war, more than double the original estimates. In 2003, military spending on Iraq will cost the equivalent of the combined budgets for NASA, all US foreign aid, all pollution control, the FBI, the National Cancer Institute, and all US national parks. Military commanders tell us that we will be in Iraq "for a long time". Sizable troop support from other nations is not forthcoming, and Mr. Bush cannot bring himself to ask NATO or the UN for the help we need.

The Congress is now investigating the reasons given to the Congress and to the American people for the war on Iraq, and how a falsehood came to be included in the State of the Union address. They will soon be telling Americans things which many Americans don't want to hear. Clearly there were others who reviewed and approved the speech, but the President is the one who made it. Now we wait to see if they find a better fall-guy than CIA Chief Tenet (who tried to take the blame) or whether Mr. Bush can again just brazen it out, shrugging off his blatant misstatement with juvenile bravado. The press secretary announced, "the President has moved on". Yes, but have we?

We must wait, then, and watch how many more mis-judgments, mistakes and mis-steps accumulate before voter reaction erupts.

Click TIME magazine (July 13, 2003) - A Question Of Trust

Click Washington Post: Boiling Mad Over Bush

Click Myths and misconceptions about the war in Iraq

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The addictive lure of information access

I've always had the problem of wanting to "multi-task" - doing lots of things at once to fill waiting periods. I used to believe that this increased my effectiveness, though I must admit that it often affects my focus. And my wife complains that it's difficult to have a sensible conversation with me when I keep poking at my PDA.

Today, technology provides so much access to communications and information that it is generating addictive, anti-social patterns. Driving with one hand holding a cell phone is downright dangerous, so many states and countries have made it illegal. But, beyond just mobile calls, laptops, cell phones and PDA's with Internet access are making the problems worse. Under the guise of productivity, a macho show of being 'connected' is often the excuse for rude, anti-social interruptions.

Some 'wired' people even admit to using wireless PDAs to exchange instant messages surreptitiously with someone at the same meeting. We have all seen people talking with two phones, one at each ear. At social events, or at the kids ballgame (wow, Daddy came!), they slip in a look at their PDA news feeds and check email. One guy even plays with the games on his cellphone at parties, preferring that to human conversation. It's addictive. A habit hard to kick!

Some info-maniacs insist that they are super efficient and will lose productivity if they disconnect. But they also acknowledge feeling something much more powerful - the compulsive stimulation provided by incoming data. This is Online Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some consider this pseudo-ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, a not uncommon children's ailment. These people do not have actual ADD but, influenced by technology and the pace of modern life, have developed shorter attention spans. They become frustrated with long-term projects, thrive on the stress of constant fixes of information, and physically crave the bursts of adrenalin that comes from checking e-mail or voice-mail.

Some people claim that multi-tasking gives them ways to direct their excess energy. It is a kind of Ritalin (the drug commonly taken by people with ADD). The allure of frenetic multitasking is similar to a quick amphetamine rush. It's related to what happens to skydivers or jet pilots - they put themselves in situations where, if they don't perform at peak efficiency, they'll crash and burn.

Many multitaskers actually hinder their own productivity. But not me. I'm reformed. In fact, I'm thinking of starting a new OCD Anonymous group, with franchises everywhere. Want to join?

Click NY Times article - The Lure of Data: Is It Addictive?

Click Email Addiction (Emailoholism):

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Major automation company weblogs

The automation company weblogs are still going strong. You'll find most news updates there. And you're welcome to send news and views that may have been missed.

Please note - these weblogs are not simply chat-boards (Yahoo and others handle that well). We do NOT to simply publish everything that comes along. Indeed, we try to calibrate the input, to make sure it is NOT simply a disgruntled employee sounding off. In most cases, we check with people we know. And we have invited senior people to weblog positive comments.

Yes, we will soon be including weblogs for Emerson and Schneider to round out the list of major automation companies. Please send me your comments, to motivate me to get started on that job.

Why does JimPinto.com sponsor these weblogs? Because we have had a lottttt of requests. Apparently, many people don't have any other way to communicate within their own company. So, some of the weblogs attract more than 1,000 visits per day!

I'll appreciate your POSITIVE feedback for my positive efforts. And, if you care about your company, perhaps you can encourage more people to weblog positive inputs.

Click JimPinto.com weblog Index

Click Why is JimPinto doing what he is doing?

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Accelerating change conference

According to Ray Kurzweil's "Law of Accelerating Returns" the rate of technology change is exponential. And there is even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. So, we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century - it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate).

The "returns" (such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness) are also increasing exponentially. Within a few decades, Kurzweil predicts, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to "The Singularity" - technological change so rapid and profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that will expand outward in the universe.

This all may sound far-fetched - but many people (including me) recognize the validity and significance of Kurzweil's predictions. Many books have been written about "The Singularity" (link to a good book below). John Smart (who I have introduced before) has a website which is dedicated to "Singularity Watch" (link below).

The same John Smart is now the President of the Institute for Accelerating Change (IAC), which will be hosting its first Accelerating Change Conference (ACC 2003) on September 12-14, at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. The only gathering of its type in the world, ACC 2003 offers a unique opportunity to become familiar with leading thinkers in the science, technology, business, and humanism of accelerating change.

Some of the AC2003 topics include:

  • Trends in Accelerating Change
  • Nanotechnology and Nanoscience
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Venture Capital in a World of Accelerating Change
  • Biologically Inspired Computing
  • Accelerating Change and World Peace
This conference is the first public evaluation of Ray Kurzweil's paradigm for the "Law of Accelerating Returns" and its broad applications to the business world. More businesspeople should understand these ideas, and the impact they have on strategic planning.

Click Institute for Accelerating Change

Click John Smart's "Singularity Watch"

Click Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns

Click Book: "The Spike" - by Damien Broderick

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The new Google Toolbar - Google Pocket Guide

Google is clearly the leading search-engine today. Beneath its deceptively simple search form is a remarkably powerful and flexible search engine that indexes billions of web pages, handling more than 150 million searches a day.

Now, the new "Google Toolbar" increases your ability to find information anywhere on the Internet. It is available free and takes only seconds to install. When installed, it automatically appears along with the Internet Explorer toolbar, so you can quickly and easily use Google to search from any website without returning to the Google home page to begin another search.

The Google Toolbar includes these great features:

  • Access Google's search technology from any web page.
  • Search only the pages of the site you're visiting.
  • See Google's ranking of the current page.
  • Access more information about a page including similar pages,pages that link back to that page, as well as a cached snapshot.
  • Highlight your search terms as they appear on the page; each word in its own color.
  • Find your search terms wherever they appear on the page.
I particularly like a feature in the new 2.0 beta version (also available free): It eliminates all those nuisance popups!

Let me remind you that you can search the JimPinto.com website LOCALLY with Google. Just go the homepage (JimPinto.com), scroll to the bottom, enter your search phrase, click the button on "Search JimPinto.com", and then click your search.

Everyone uses Google. But, how do you get all the hidden power working for you? Try the new "Google Pocket Guide"; this little booklet provides the information you need to make your searches faster and more effective, with ways to make the most of the special syntaxes, hidden options, and powerful combinations.

Get "The Google Pocket Guide" to unleash the Google power at your fingertips.

Click Free download - the new Google Toolbar

Click Book - The Google Pocket Guide

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Daniel Miklovic [dmiklovic@attbi.com] wrote on globalization and labor outsourcing:
    "The analogy to farming is flawed. The decrease of people in US farming from 50% to 2% freed them up for other jobs in the US, and the US remains a net exporter of food. Unlike the shift from agriculture, shifting manufacturing and IT jobs offshore does not free people up for higher paying jobs. Ask anyone from the tech sector - you'll find them working as cashiers at Home Depot.

    "I don't think the globalization issues have been adequately factored into the model, so we don't fully understand what is happening. I having a nagging doubt that in the future we will look back in retrospect and wish we had behaved differently.

    "On the outsourcing issue: today Mexico is threatened economically not by the US, but by China. Those $1 an hour jobs (that have now crept up to $1.50 an hour) are now being challenged by $1/day jobs in China. Of course over time those jobs will creep up too, as Chinese workers demand more pay to buy what they are making.

    "If the fruits of globalization are so good, and the march to offshore outsourcing so positive, why is unemployability among white collar workers at a peak (for recent times)? I have no confidence in the soothsayers that predict wonderful things for all as a result of globalization. The interaction of politics, greed and human unpredictability make such a system, the global economy, an unmanageable system.

    "Look at the mess we are making in Iraq and tell me that world leaders can manage a global economy that ultimately makes the US standard of living better while lifting up other nations. It may be possible, but only from pure dumb luck, not orchestrated management."

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Tom Inglesby [tom@editor7.com] gave us a concise history of the "aircar" concept:
    "In the 1930s, the flying car concept was recognized as a logical next step. It combined the major transportation ideas of the previous decades: personal mobility (cars) with modern technology (aviation) with speed - bringing far off destinations to a comfortable day's travel. WW-II interrupted non-military personal transport development.

    "After the war, two competing aviation elements were beginning: personal flight (light planes, general aviation) and large, commercial airlines. The auto industry was transitioning from military vehicles to private cars and trucks. Roads were primitive, but they did offer access between cities and into the countryside. The idea of flying in the family "aircar" appealed to many post-war pilots and others who had experienced the wonders (and the speed) of flight in the military.

    "Unlike post-WW-I aviation, where government surplus planes were offered to the public at "depression prices", post-WW-II ex-military aircraft were so expensive that most (now-private) pilots couldn't afford them - at least not for use as private planes. A lot were gobbled up for commercial use and many are still flying. The few categories that were good buys (trainers, observation and light transport aircraft) often derived from pre-war general aviation aircraft, and they did pop up at local flying fields.

    "There were attempts at the aircar, autos with detachable wings and engine-propeller systems in a "backpack" configuration, for example, but as with most compromises, they didn't gain acceptance from the hard core pilot community, nor the wanna-be pilot.

    The country was much different then than it is today. Cities were smaller, agricultural areas more vast, distances between population centers seemed greater. People with jobs and some money had room to move around. As mobility increased, people were starting to see they could live away from their work and commute. Eisenhower, using the battle cry of "national security", started the Interstate road system. That opened the country to travel, leisure and business by car, and commerce by truck. Eventually this reduced the value of railroads.

    "Meanwhile, the commercial aviation business was getting both government subsidies (for air mail) and the attention of former military airframe builders. Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Convair, Fokker, etc. found that government and commercial contracts were often compatible. The jet turbine and the cross-country capability it produced made air travel easier, safer, a lot more comfortable and (for the long distance traveler) not too expensive.

    So the aircar was an idea whose time came and went, before it even got off the ground.

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Harry Fletcher [hfletcher@nhp.com.au] from Australia wonders about cheap memory as it goes obsolete:
    "One possible concern is the ability of future hardware to read archived data as our media changes. For example, who can read data stored on a 5.25 inch floppy? And how secure are the current CDR's which are used extensively for backup? Will they be readable in 20 years?

    "With the increased use of this type of data storage, are we in danger of losing historical data? A book for example is readable after some hundreds of years because it does not require the latest technology to read it. Will a pdf file created today be readable with the technology of 2012? Will the media be usable then?

    "With the mass amount of data we can collect and store, and with fast moving technology, the only alternative may be to continually re-save the data in a new format. I'm not sure many people are thinking about that. For longevity, maybe we should just keep printing hard copies of important data.

    "Just some food for thought. I heard NASA can't even read tape data collected on Voyager missions, and that wasn't too long ago."

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