JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 302 : 22 March 2012

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

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The 6 "killer-apps" of Prosperity

Many people don't recognize that 500 years ago, India and China owned about 50% of the world's wealth. Over the past centuries, Western cultures have shifted prosperity to Europe and then North America. How did that happen?

Niall Ferguson teaches history and business administration at Harvard and is a senior research fellow at several other universities, including Oxford. In a TED speech, he asks what the West had that others didn't?

Ferguson suggests that six ideas from Western culture made the difference - he calls them "The 6 killer apps":

  1. Competition - Monarchies replaced by competing businesses
  2. Scientific Revolution - Major technology
  3. Representative Government - Optimal social and political system
  4. Modern Medicine - Healthcare
  5. The Consumer Society - Laws of Supply and Demand
  6. The Work Ethic - Higher savings and capital accumulation
Ferguson's major point is that these elements, institutionalized in Western Society a few centuries ago, led to the great economic divergence from the rest of the world. Westerners not only grew richer - they grew taller, healthier, and lived longer.

By the early 20th century, just a dozen Western countries? ?controlled 60% of the world's land surface and population, and  74% of the global economy.

The problem for the West is that these concepts are now diffusing to other countries and continents. The process of divergence has been replaced by one of convergence. All the other countries are catching on and catching up. Fast!

We should not be concerned about Americans no longer being richer. What IS worrisome is the tendency of Western societies to delete their own killer-apps.

Today, the US ranks 50th in the world for public trust in the ethics of politicians, 42nd for various forms of bribery, 40th for standards of auditing and financial reporting. It is the top of the global list in only one area: investor protection.

The West needs to "reboot" the whole system. What we are risking is not just decline, but downright collapse. Think about it.

Click TED Talk - Niall Ferguson: The 6 killer apps of prosperity

Click Six Killer Apps of Prosperity that the US Government is Destroying

Click Book: Civilization - The West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson

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Automation Innovation Paradigms

Radical innovation is disruptive. It creates an inflection point that generates fast growth for the innovators and inevitable decline for those that are stuck in old paradigms.

The large automation companies are developing mostly extensions of old stuff, reincarnations of tired concepts that can't generate real growth and just won't cut it much longer. They are too conservative to do much beyond short-term extrapolations.

You know what Steve Jobs said, "If it's good, don't do it - it's got to be insanely great!" Perhaps only a gutsy CEO with good market insights Can make that kind of call. And how many of those are there in the automation business?

The two largest segments of industrial measurement & control systems - Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) and Distributed Control Systems (DCS) - were both 1970's era developments.

While there are isolated pockets of growth in the automation business, no other innovations have succeeded in achieving an equivalent inflection point by offering improvements of ten times or more in price, performance and operating advantages.

Automation is overdue for a revolution, an inflection point. Here is a major case in point - Decentralized Control.

How effectively would the Internet operate if it ran primarily with centralized intelligence? Well, that's how process controls and automation systems operate today - deterministic, centralized, hierarchical systems.

The inventor of the PLC, Dick Morley, has been preaching peer-to-peer decentralized control systems for two decades, but no one has really run with it to prove the practical advantages of real alternatives in large systems. The automation majors are too chicken to invest significantly to prove the point. They're waiting for some gutsy little company to prove the overwhelming benefits.

Meantime, most top managers in the automation world are too busy looking into their rear-view mirrors to see the future coming at them. Fast. Look for new leaders to blaze the path to explosive new growth.

Click Automation World Feb. 2012 - Automation Innovation Paradigms

Click Finding Innovation: New Paradigms

Click Shifting Paradigms - Refreezing for Innovation

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ACP ThinManager 6.0 Launch Event - Aril 16-18 2012

Let me share some of the excitement I felt as the keynote speaker at a recent conference (October 2011) organized by Automation Control Products, a decade-old startup based in Alpharetta, Georgia, the developer of ThinManager software.

There were about one hundred attendees, all from industrial end-user companies like Potash, Frito Lay, Kroger and Nestle USA, plus control systems integrators and industrial software veterans. These were all practical automation engineers and technicians who had oodles of experience with running process plants, automation factories and giant packaging lines.

It turns out that most of them had already used ACP ThinManager software since its first development about a decade ago. And they were there because they wanted more and better.

Anyone with ACP ThinManager software has access to literally thousands, or even millions of control and display variables using thin-clients and multiple monitors located anywhere. And there is even an iPad or iPhone ThinManager app. These are the seeds of truly distributed control systems. I'll be doing a keynote speech again for the launch of ThinManager 6.0, the most significant version of ThinManager ever released. The event will be held on Monday 16 April at the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway.

This Expo is being organized to offer the maximum hands-on experience for those seeking training on ThinManager software. Two types of training will be offered - one covering the major functionality of ThinManager and another that offers virtualization training as it relates to industrial computing with ThinManager and terminal services.

There will be vertical application presentations, ROI presentations featuring the new ThinManager ROI Calculator, and presentations featuring ThinManager mobile management capabilities. All of these are intertwined with a large Expo space called the "Launch Pad" that will be open for the entire event. There'll be four-hour "Watch and Do" sessions - hands-on classes that will walk the attendees through the latest in ACP thin-client technology.

I'll be speaking on Tuesday, April 17 at 11:00 AM. If you're an Automation or plant engineer, please come, participate and touch. It'll change your view of where Automation is heading!

Click Automation World Nov. 2011 - Automation: Overdue for a Revolution

Click ACP ThinManager 6.0 - Launch & Training Event, April 16-18, 2012

Click ACP ThinManager Overview

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Internet is Changing the Brain

The Internet is actually changing our brains. It has become a primary form of external memory and our brains have become reliant on the virtually instant availability of information. Our brains are adapting, and some think that intelligence is improving.

When faced with questions, people rarely consider encyclopedias or history books any more; they think about computers. It's a new impulse that now exists in the brain. With smart phones, the information is in their pocket.

Rote memorization wastes valuable brainpower. People don't need to remember addresses or phone numbers anymore; they can just look them up. Clearly, modern education should focus not on learning by rote any more, but on creative thinking.

Some think that multi-tasking - the phenomenon of continuous partial attention - causes an actual adaptation of the brain. Instead of focusing on tasks, incoming email becomes a distraction and cannot be ignored.

Deep, focused reading is becoming increasingly difficult. Online browsing has created a new form of "reading," in which people aren't really reading, but rather power browsing. Instead of left-to-right, up-to-down reading, they seem to scan through titles, bullet points, and information that stands out. When it comes to reading more than a few minutes, the mind begins to wander. Certainly comprehension and attention are at risk.

When you're online, you're frequently attacked by bursts of information, which is highly stimulating and even overwhelming. Too much and you can become extremely distracted and unfocused. Even after logging off, your brain remains wired. The lack of focus and fractured thinking persists, interrupting work, family, and offline time.

Gradually, Internet use is changing neural pathways; it's addictive. Even after unplugging, habitual users feel a craving for the stimulation received from gadgets. This is caused by dopamine, which is delivered as response to the stimulation. Without it, boredom sets in; people get irritated till they get their "fix". After spending time online, their brain wants to get back for more, making it difficult to "unplug" and concentrate on other tasks.

How do these effects of technology addiction extrapolate in the future?

Click Wired: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains

Click The Internet Is Changing Our Brains - But So What?

Click JimPinto.com July 2003 - The addictive lure of information access

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Emerging Smart-TV

The idea of a "smart" Internet-connected TV is emerging quickly. In a world where all the latest gadgets and appliances are expected to be hooked up with Internet connectivity to a variety of apps and social networks, TV manufacturers are getting in on the game.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2012, the top TV makers - Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio - were all offering Internet connected big flat screens. Google has partnered with most of them, each offering its own way to put the TV back to the center of home entertainment, with access to apps from Netflix, Hulu, Facebook and the like.

Samsung is working on integrating voice and motion control into its new TV sets, enabling users to speak commands or change channels and settings with just a wave. Vizio is the first to join with the cloud-service company OnLive to put streaming games on its TV sets. All Google TV partners have added the OnLive Viewer app, which lets users manage their accounts and watch others play games; playing live games with others over Internet TV is getting close.

I don't like to watch regular broadcast TV anymore - fixed broadcast times with too many advertising interruptions. Instead, I now have a choice of watching recent and not-so-recent movies and TV shows, with the luxury of no interruptions, plus control with my clicker when I want to take a break.

Google TV (made by LogiTech, costs couple hundred $) was introduced May 2010, offering all the convenience of the Web on the large screen, plus connectivity to Netflix, Amazon, Youtube. I also have a smaller, cheaper ($ 100) black-box called Apple TV which gives me the same functions, with access to some of the latest movies and TV shows, plus slideshows with all the photos on my computer.

On Netflix, I pay $ 7.99 a month to watch an unlimited number of movies and TV shows, but they are mostly old re-runs. Apple TV tends to offer the latest movies and TV shows (including major TV series) at a typical price of $ 3.99, while Amazon.com offers some (but not all) of the same at $ 2.99. Heck, that's better than paying big Cable-TV bills.

Clearly, regular broadcast TV will disappear - I predict that it will be obsolete in just a decade or two.

Click Smart TVs: The next tech war is in the living room

Click JimPinto.com eNews 12 May 2009 - The Future of Television

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David Bell [dbell.greyskies@shaw.ca] from Canada is worried about the latest generation of young people:
    "I've been doing some research on Millennials (born after 1980) trying to understand their characteristics. I'm worried.

    "I am 65 (35 year background in technology), then 10 years working with start-ups. I've worked with 60-80 Millennials, a few of whom were extraordinary and successful. Many struggled, but were able to emerge as responsible and viable company founders.

    A significant percentage (30-40%) were crippled by their own burned-in disabilities. Here are some of the salient characteristics:

    • Up to 10,000 hrs on digital games and/or 20,000 hrs on the net by mid-twenties.
    • Doubled adolescence/dependency (20-25 years of adolescence from age 10-35).
    • Never challenged in school: Expected to be entitled to high marks (80-85%) for almost nothing.
    • React with anger when being challenged.
    • Schools focus on creating self esteem. Students expect positive daily feedback.
    • Addicted to social media - up to 400-800 messages per day. Some go through 700 messages in the 7 hours they are at school.
    • They expect effortless, extraordinary success after graduation.
    • They see a flat/two-dimensional world: E.g. "Project Manager" = someone who reads a book on project management.
    • This is in conflict with their economic reality. 2 years after graduation - 40-60% unemployment, or severe underemployment.
    • They say that 'rules are irrelevant'. They swamp the legal system with too many arrests - see the Vancouver Hockey riots.
    • Angry, filled with rage (especially males), sporadically destructive and violent
    • Appear to have no core personality. Given a degree of anonymity they try out disparate roles.
    • Focussed solely on how they feel.

    "I fear that this generation has the capacity to turn our society into a world train wreck. My question to your eNews readers: What are your experiences working with Millennials?

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The irrepressible world-traveler Bob Schaefer [robws@yahoo.com] gives his view of America from afar:

    "I have interesting debates, almost every night, with highly intelligent people from China, Vietnam, Thailand. They are truly interested in politics in the US but find it almost impossible to understand.

    "I listen to myself, and I sound more cynical with each passing day. My major fear about America is that politicians will manage to screw it all up. I wonder if I'm getting more cynical as I get older, but then I catch some US network news and I realize it's NOT me. Watching US politics from afar is like watching re-runs of the Benny Hill show. (Mind you, he does look a bit like Newt Gingrich.)

    "Do you realize that the only civil servant positions in the US that do not require an exam to measure ability to perform the job are those at the top of all branches of the government: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. You have to take a test to carry the mail, but not to run the country.

    "Every military person in the US armed services is required to take many exams throughout his or her career, to prove their ability to perform their duties. Everyone - except the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, etc.

    "I recall a recent Bush appointee to be ambassador to Canada who, when interviewed by the CBC, didn't know that Ottawa was the capital.

    "I propose an in depth examination for all those seeking public office. I'm sure we can find enough smart people to devise a comprehensive examination for each position - history, economics, religion, art, management skills, technical knowledge.

    "Think of it: No more election rubbish to sift through; no SuperPacs; no lobbyists; no ridiculous debates or commercials. Just the smartest people get the jobs. It'll work."

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Ritchie Tabachnick [ritchie.tabachnick@ec-africa.com] responded to Bob Fritz's comments on unions and the auto industry:

    "The first, obvious problem with Bob's commentary is that the US auto makers are having a great year; and they are still unionized. GM just reported its best results in its history. Traveling the world as much as I do, I have noticed a trend towards increased presence of American cars in other parts of the world where they were a rarity just a few years ago. Our unionized car industry is a leader again.

    "Germany produces fine cars and competes well internationally, but has a highly-unionized workforce with wages and benefits much higher than those in the US. The same is true of auto makers in Japan.

    "Modern unions are partners in productivity and efficiency. The myth of corrupt, anti-business unions is a generation out-of-date, and was probably grossly exaggerated when it was popular (like Cadillac-driving welfare mothers).

    "There are some basic economic principles that the anti-labor movement ignores. The period of prosperity that followed World War II was only possible because we had a prosperous working class that sustained consumer spending. Reducing wages and benefits results in short-term profits but is not sustainable because it eventually reduces consumption. Our fragile economy of the last 30 years is a result of underpaid, not overpaid, workers.

    "American labor can compete with anyone. It is among the most productive of the world's workforces. Popular anti-labor rhetoric comes from the political campaigns. It is not based on economic reality."

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