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Future GovernmentDoes government have a future? Does anyone seriously believe that the world can function without governments?
In the last decade of the last century, the failure of Communism symbolized the victory of individual freedoms and open markets over government interference, oppression and authoritarian planning.
As the century drew to a close, the frantic growth of stock markets around the world was seen as the sign of the supremacy of free-enterprise Capitalism. There was no space left for government. The "money machine" spat out more growth and more wealth for many. Capitalism's pursuit of free enterprise and individual happiness seemed to maximize the common good.
But then the backlash occurred. Producers and consumers suffered, and many economies began steep declines. Again there was demand for government controls. The pendulum swung.
These are the fundamental issues: Without government regulations, the potential for corruption increases. At the other end, the size of government and lack of transparency has potential for corruption.
The increasingly free and open global environment brings solutions. Efficiency is demanded from governments. They can no longer operate as monopolies because they have competition - from other governments. Global tax competition attracts businesses away; financial and knowledge resources migrate to countries that have lower taxes, and business-friendly policies.
Growing bureaucracies can no longer pay for their inefficiencies by raising taxes or borrowing. Taxpayers want better results, faster, without having to pay increasing taxes. The clear message to Government: Do more, and better, with less.
Governments can and must learn from corporate success. They must create an environment that attracts, retains and grows human and financial capital. They must focus on their core missions, moving from simply hoarding knowledge to sharing it openly. They must develop an innovative mindset, admit mistakes and learn from them. Knowledge is an infinitely renewable resource and provides opportunities for creation of sustained wealth.
Efficiency cannot be the sole objective of economic activities. Values like welfare and sustainability also count. The succession of large corporate scandals remind us that the market alone is imperfect and cannot guarantee its own survival. Good governance, private and public, is clearly a key ingredient for economic growth.
Governments will never go back to being the way they were. Future governments will be judged by their results, just like businesses. New forms of public-private partnerships will be developed. Much more attention will be paid to the involvement of stakeholders and community advocacy groups in public policymaking and implementation.
Governments will thrive if they are smart, responsive, efficient, and maintain public trust.
Future FamilyFor decades people have been predicting the decline of the American family. Joel Kotkin in a recent Forbes.com article, writes that the family has in fact become much more important in recent years. My summary is largely extracted from his article, "All in the Family" weblink below.
This twist can be traced to demographic shifts, immigration, extended life spans, tough economic conditions, and attitude changes among America's increasingly diverse population.
Families today are more than just married couples with children living at home. Everything from divorce to immigration and gay marriage is reshaping families, which remain as the central force in American communities and the economy.
Today, people remain tied to one another well after they first move away. At 89, my mother in India was still my mother, as well as the grandmother to my children and the great-grandmother to my grandchildren. She was always looking out for me, and lecturing me on what I should or shouldn't be doing. Family ties still dominated her actions and attitudes, and this reflected on how we behaved.
More than 80% of Americans eventually get married, often after a period of living-together. Later marriages are reflected in later child-rearing. Younger women today may be less likely to have kids, but over the past quarter-century, the number of women over 35 who have children has more than tripled. This trend is accelerating.
People continue to value the stability and cohesion that families can provide. Today, more than in the past, Americans today are in regular contact with their parents. 90% consider themselves close to their parents, and far more children are likely to live with at least one parent now than a generation ago. Studies show that family counts more than money when people make decisions about where to live.
As people live longer and have children later, family ties get stronger. Grandparents are now playing a much larger role in family life, as financial supporters and as sources of reliable child care. Living with or being close to grandparents is particularly important for younger Americans, many of whom are struggling to raise families. The rich have nannies; most others have grandparents.
Institutionalized care for the elderly, once seen as inevitable, has dropped in the last few decades, as more families have aging parents move in with them to avoid nursing homes. Homes that can be adapted to include "granny quarters" have become desirable commodities.
The strongest force for family cohesion is ethnic minorities. Older immigrants are far more likely to live in married households, and are more than twice as likely to live in households with at least two adult generations.
Then there are the "millennials" - Americans born since 1982 enjoy better relationships with their parents. Many stay in touch regularly, weekly or even daily. Many 13-to-24-year-olds consider time spent with family a great source of happiness, rating it even higher than time spent with friends.
The current tough economic conditions are strengthening close, long-term ties between children and parents. Higher college debts, high home prices and a tough job market, all extend strong family dependence well into adulthood. For millions, severe economic pressures are making the family the ultimate "safety net".
Many Americans are finding out there's one institution that really can be counted on: the Family.
Re-inventing computersThe "personal computer" is being reinvented. Phones and pads are replacing laptops and some desktops.
Apple has become the tech-company with the highest market-cap, second only to Exxon in the entire market.
In the first month of its introduction, sales of Apple's iPad tablets have reached a million units; that's half the time it took to sell a million iPhones.
Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard has announced that its new tablet will not be based on Microsoft's bloated Windows Mobile OS. This after Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer appeared in person during the introduction at Comdex in January. Apparently, Windows-mobile software cannot keep up with Android and iPhone programs from Google and Apple. So HP bought Palm and is substituting the Palm OS software on their tablet.
Many think that it is best to think of iPad not as a laptop, but as the world's first "couchtop". Much of what people do with computers these days - casually checking e-mail, grazing around the Web, reading the news - is while sitting on a couch, sometimes with a smart-phone. For these types of interactions the iPad works well - fast and easy, with a bright color screen; it's something to snuggle up with. Of course, if you need to do some real work, you'll still need a "real" computer.
This is what computing is going to be like for millions of people. With "old" computers, the emphasis was on freedom to do anything. But that made computers too complex, hard to use and susceptible to virus infections and other problems.
With the iPhone and iPad, you push a button and it works, just like a kitchen appliance. On an iPad, you don't "launch" an application; you "go to it". For a long time, people have been wishing for computers to be like that.
The iPad will likely take a chunk out of sales of dedicated e-book readers, like Amazon's Kindle. The iPad offers many more features like full-color, plus playing video and listening to music. Amazon sold 2.2 million Kindles in 2009 and will now need to lower the price to compete. Or, they'll have to introduce new features like a color screen and touch (instead of buttons).
I have both a Kindle and an iPad in my living room, and I must confess to using my iPad much more often. For just eReading, Amazon has a much larger choice of eBooks, but iPad books are more pleasing to the eye, especially with color.
iPad has lots of other uses - I check the stock-market and the weather, and read the news on NPR and the NY Times. Plus when I'm traveling, there are lots of choices of games, including checkers, chess, solitaire and more. But most of all, I love showing off my photos and videos on my iPad. I can't do that on my Kindle.
But, truth be told, I can do all those things on the iPhone, which also has a phone and camera. And it's always in my pocket.
2020 technology dreamsThe first decade of the new century has already changed the world. Now get ready for much, much more. Accelerating high tech will drive further and faster.
Broadband will be pervasive, and Moore's Law will keep crunching the price of computation, communication, transmission and storage to produce more and more cutting-edge commodities to transform everyday living.
Cheap sensors will be in everything, providing machine-to-machine sensing, communications and control. Innovations once considered science fiction will become real for millions.
Because of pervasive communications, countries will not "own" their people as they did in the past. Closed societies will break open, and new kinds of transnational political organizations will evolve, to change the way political leaders behave.
National control of language, currency and communications will be undermined by simultaneous translation systems, cross-border mobile payments, and easy-access exchange systems. Open societies will struggle to adapt to loss of control; closed societies will fail outright.
Portable computing devices will start being integrated into our clothing. "Smart phones" will do more and more, with voice activation and high-resolution displays as eyewear.
Virtual displays will be capable of putting us into a 3D full immersion virtual reality environment. We'll watch movies virtually and read virtual books. A lot of our personal and business meetings will take place in 3D virtual worlds. The design of new virtual environments will become an art form. We'll even have ways to "touch" one another virtually.
Over the next decade, the world will wean itself away from dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce greenhouse gases.
These things present hard engineering challenges, and some will need big scientific leaps in synthetic or genetically engineered materials. Accelerating technologies will be the game-changers.
If this doesn't take a decade, it may take two - but there's very little doubt that technology will make these dreams come true.
Innovation Ideas for Automation CompaniesQ: In a relatively staid and conservative industry, how does an automation company find innovation to generate new growth?
A: Look away from your mainstream business to recognize the next big opportunities.
Most automation companies are treading water with warmed-up old commodities masquerading as new products. Automation is ripe for "disruptive innovation".
Here are 8 innovation ideas specifically for automation companies:
eFeedbackReid.VanderVeen [Reid.VanderVeen@interstates.com] writes about changing CEOs when a company gets into trouble:
"Sure, there's value in being a leader in general; managers are in their respective roles for a reason; not everyone is management material. However, it goes unsaid that there is an unfortunate disconnect between the corporate level employee and the plant-floor employee when the CEO of company A can be recycled to lead company B or company X, with little or no understanding of the things that the company actually does.
"Sure, the big leather chairs probably sit the same; the paint on the walls may be the same color, and the plush carpet feels the same under those expensive wing tips; but that's where the similarities end.
"If you ask me, no one should be placed at that level of a leadership position without prior knowledge or experience in any company let alone a new industry. No one with the authority to make decisions for every employee within a corporation should be placed there without an understanding of what the company does. Who's going to be comforted by the fact that their new boss, who's entering the company to make changes, has yet to learn what they do?"
"The rich and the upper middle class in India have great purchasing power. Not to mention the 1 billion 'poor' who buy and change Nokia's handsets for nothing more than fashion & pride. The other day, The Times of India noted that India has more mobile phones than toilets. Indians are crazy for Swiss chocolates and Scotch whiskey, now available all across India. The Scotch is made overseas and bottled in India.
"Instead of manufacturing in China, Americans should take pride in manufacturing in the USA, consuming locally and exporting in a big way. I guarantee you there are millions around the world who will buy American goods for PRIDE.
"By the way, I advise the same to Indian manufacturers."
"Our company lets people choose whether they want to continue on the technical side of the house, or move over into project management, and the marketing side. I made a conscious decision to remain in engineering. I did this because I truly LIKE engineering. Project management, and keeping track of budgets should be done by people who like to do that. To be fair, you stated that your changes were for engineers who WANT to move ahead in their management career.
"I studied engineering because that is what I wanted to do, and still prefer to do. I get a true satisfaction out of working with other professional disciplines to design a beautiful pumping station or water treatment plant, then watching it get built, and then have the fun of going out and helping to start it up. Sometimes, I've even been able to press that start button! The guys back at the corporate offices don't get to have that kind of fun."
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